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Photo of Crying Single Mum Shows Harsh Reality of Healthcare in China

The heartbreaking photos of a desperate mother are going viral for the second time.

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A photo that is currently going viral on Chinese social media shows a crying mother in Shanghai kneeling down by her toddler son on the sidewalk.

The text accompanying the photo says:

On Shanghai Beiyuan Street, a single mother kneels on the street in the cold wind. She buries her head in her child’s arms and quietly sobs. The 3-year-old son suffers from hydrocephalus [“water on the brain”], and they previously came to Shanghai to seek medical treatment because he had an infection. After using up all their money, they were forced to leave the hospital. The helpless mother just sat on the street, feeling sorry for her child.

The photo received thousands of comments on Weibo today, with many people offering to help the mother out. “It hurts to see this,” some said: “She wants to be able to help her son, but she does not have the resources.”

Many Chinese face major obstacles in getting access to the healthcare they need. Under China’s current medical system, it is not easy for people from rural areas to gain access to medical facilities in the major cities, as they are not covered there and will have to pay for medical care themselves.

The issue is related to China’s hukou (household registration) system: government-subsidized rural medical insurance is often not valid in a different province, which means that villagers who fall seriously ill are not covered when they travel to first-tier cities for medical care.

So-called ticket scalpers (票贩子) take advantage of the system and people’s eagerness to see a doctor by using local identification cards to book appointments and then selling them to people without the proper documentation.

As for the crying single mother; this is not the first time these photos make their rounds around Chinese social media. The scene was captured on camera approximately four months ago, in early December of 2017.

It is not uncommon for the same story or photos to go viral again or to keep circulating on Weibo, similar to viral news stories on Twitter or Facebook.

According to Phoenix News, the mother is the 45-year-old Guo Yinzhen (郭银珍), who is a single parent since she divorced from her estranged husband some years ago. Her son’s name is Guo Zhenghan (郭政焓), and they come from a village in Datian county, Sanming, in Fujian – some 830 kilometers from Shanghai.

The photos were reportedly taken on December 1, 2017, when a reporter joined some volunteers to pay a visit to the Shanghai’s Children’s Hospital and came across the crying mother and then asked her about her story.

Photos from Sina.com

Guo Zhenghan was born in November of 2014 and has congenital hydrocephalus, meaning he already had it at birth. From 2014 to 2016, the child underwent three surgeries, but his condition deteriorated in May of 2017. Since November 2017 alone, the child was admitted to the hospital four times because of a potentially fatal bacterial complication.

Having used up all her money and still needing some 100,000s yuan (more than $15,000) for further treatments, Guo Yinzhen had no choice but to leave the hospital again, which is when she helplessly sat down on the street with her son.

In March 2018, Sina News also reported about this story, saying that Guo Yinzhen is a laid-off factory worker who has not been able to work since the birth of her child. Her parents are farmers who make a living by plucking tea leaves.

Sina also writes that the family has already spent 400,000 yuan (±US $63,000) on medical expenses, and still owe around US $47,000 in debts.

“I just feel so bad for the mother,” many people on Weibo respond.

“Since this is [the state of] medical treatments in Chinese society, parents have to make sure they can afford the medical costs if their child falls ill,” another person comments: “It is the best to purchase a commercial insurance. They’re not cheap, but even if costly, they need to buy it.”

In search of how Guo and her son are now doing, we found a buried Weibo post dated December 12, which only received four comments, in which a netizen writes:

On December 1, the crying single mother kneeling in the cold by her son has received ample attention. On December 5, with the help of the Xiaoxingxin Foundation, single parent Guo Yinzhen was able to bring her child Guo Zhenghan to Shanghai again for medical treatment, where the notable pediatric neurosurgeon Bao Nan operated the child. Thank you for all your care.

The update was also confirmed by the Xiaoxingxin Foundation with a post on Weibo (@小星欣公益), which also said that according to the doctor, the infection had gone and that the brain development of the boy was “looking good.”

“Why can’t we set up a system in which children will always be able to receive complete basic healthcare?” one netizen wondered.

On March 15, China Central Television reported that future reforms in China’s healthcare system will make healthcare more accessible and affordable, especially for rural communities – it does not say on what term these changes will be realized.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Jonathan

    March 27, 2018 at 8:20 pm

    The British NHS health system is the way any socialist state should follow:
    https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/jan/18/nye-bevan-history-of-nhs-national-health-service

  2. Bren Branch

    May 20, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    No mother anywhere should ever have to go through this heart wrenching ordeal of having a child who needs medical care and not be able to get it.
    It is heartbreaking to see these photos. And the pain in her face and her eyes is real. She loves her baby very much. Her heart is so heavy for her baby. One of the most helpless and painful feelings in the world is one in which you think you are letting your baby down. I pray that care will be available to all children of the world someday soon; that no child need suffer because their parents can not afford the huge medical bills involved or there is no insurance coverage or medical care for their particular condition and the children are never left to wonder why they have to suffer so much. I would ask every Christian who reads this to pray with me and you ask the Father to be advocate for the children. Amen.
    This little boy is so adorable and precious. Look at his beautiful little smiling face. There is trust in that little face when he looks into his mother’s eyes.
    I would love to just hold him next to me in my arms and tell him things will be OK. I would like to put my arms around his mother and tell her things will be ok from now on, that she need not worry should he ever become sick again.
    God bless her and her baby boy and all the other mother, fathers and children like him. Jesus said Suffer (let) the little children come unto me.” Maybe we need to give Him
    more access to our children so that His Power be made more manifest in their lives. There is definite power in Faith in Jesus Chrisr ❤️

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China Health

Let’s Talk about Sex, Grandpa: HIV on the Rise among China’s Elderly Men

There’s a sharp rise in HIV among Chinese elderly men, partly caused by a general lack of HIV & safe sex awareness.

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First published

HIV among China’s elderly is a growing problem; it is mostly older men who get infected with HIV through extramarital sex. Their knowledge regarding safe sex is often lacking.

As it is World AIDS Day on December 1st, and while major discussions on the alleged first gene-edited babies immune to HIV are still top trending, other noteworthy HIV-related news is also gaining a lot of attention on Chinese social media these days.

At time of writing, more than 220 million people have viewed the Weibo hashtag “Number of Elderly AIDS Cases on the Rise” (#老年艾滋病病例上升#). The hashtag has emerged amidst news reports that there is a significant rise in the number of HIV cases among the elderly in China, particularly among men.

According to an article published on Weibo by Chinese news outlet The Paper, the number of known cases of HIV among Chinese men above the age of 60 has risen from 8391 cases in 2012 to 19815 cases in 2017.

One WeChat blogger’s response to the rise in number of HIV cases among Chinese elderly men (脊梁in上海).

On November 27, the Hangzhou Center for Disease Control and Prevention (杭州市疾控中心) released news information relating to the problems of the rising cases of HIV and AIDS among the elderly.

In the city of Hangzhou, the detection of HIV among patients who are over 50 years old has doubled over the past three years.

According to a specialist from the Hangzhou center, this rise of HIV has to do with the limited HIV awareness among elderly communities, and with the fact that they are often not accustomed to using condoms.

Extramarital heterosexual sex is the main way of transmission for elderly men, with some also getting HIV because of homosexual sex. For elderly women, marital sex is the main way of transmission.

Because they are often late in seeking medical treatment when they feel unwell, the detection of HIV is often late, which makes that there is a relatively high number of AIDS-related deaths among elderly patients.

The problem of the rising number of HIV patients among China’s elderly population has received more scholarly attention of the past few years. According to a 2014 study by Tang et al, the sharp rise of HIV among elderly became more visible after 2010. In 2011, people over the age of 60 accounted for 28.4% of the total HIV cases Guangxi province (this was 18.7% in 2009).

A study in Nanning, capital of Guangxi, found that heterosexual transmission accounted for 90% of HIV cases among those over 50 years old, and that low-cost commercial sex venues were a primary site of infection (Tang et al 2014, 2).

The research by Tang et al shows that the use of aphrodisiacs (cheaper alternatives to Viagra, often illegally produced in local workshops) is significantly associated with an increased HIV risk for men over 50 who purchase commercial sex with female prostitutes (3).

One popular WeChat blog explained the reasons behind the problem of HIV among China’s elderly as follows:

1. They see prostitutes because they are seeking ways to fulfill their sexual needs.
2. There is little awareness on HIV or AIDS. (According to one story quoted in the blog, an elderly man who was diagnosed with HIV even told the doctor he had washed himself with detergent every time after he had sex with a prostitute – he “did not understand” how he got infected.)
3. They do not know how to use condoms / they are not accustomed to using condoms.

A man washed himself with detergent after visiting a prostitute.

On Weibo, there are many commenters who show their sympathy for the elderly women who get infected with HIV within their marriage because of their husband’s extramarital sexual behaviors. “How tragic for them,” a popular comment said, while others wonder: “What’s the purpose of marriage then?”

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention advises people who have had extramarital sex, homosexual or heterosexual, to get themselves checked on HIV – also if there are people who suspect that their partner might have had sexual encounters outside of the marriage.

“The sex life of the elderly is a sensitive topic, but it needs to be talked about,” well-known lawyer Yi Shenghua (易胜华) writes on Weibo: “If we do not attach importance to the [open] discussion of this topic, the problem of AIDS among China’s eldery will only grow bigger.”

By Manya Koetse and Miranda Barnes

Tang Z, Wu X, Li G, Shen Z, Zhang H, et al. 2014. “Aphrodisiac Use Associated with HIV Infection in Elderly Male Clients of Low-Cost Commercial Sex Venues in Guangxi, China: A Matched Case-Control Study.” PLOS ONE 9(10): e109452. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0109452.

Photo used in featured image by David Sinclair.

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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China Health

The Controversial Case of the Chinese Gene-Edited Baby Twins & Reactions on Weibo

He Jiankui’s claim of “gene-edited twins” has sparked international uproar.

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The claim by Chinese researcher He Jiankui that he has edited the genes of two babies to make them resistant to HIV has sparked outrage worldwide. On Weibo, responses are mixed.

Over the past week, news that a Chinese researcher from Shenzen has helped make the world’s first genetically edited babies has made international headlines.

Chinese doctor He Jiankui (贺建奎) and his research team have allegedly succeeded in altering the DNA of embryos, making them resistant to HIV. The twin girls were born this month.

The news was revealed on Monday, November 26, at the Human Genome Editing Summit (国际人类基因组编辑峰会) in Hong Kong, and earlier in exclusive interviews with the Associated Press. According to AP, He and his team have altered embryos for seven couples during fertility treatments, with one pregnancy resulting thus far. An eighth couple had initially agreed to participate, but later withdrew from the project.

The parents involved reportedly declined to be identified or interviewed, and details on where this was done or where the parents of the twin live have not been revealed. The twin girls are only known as ‘Lulu’ (露露) and ‘Nana’ (娜娜).

The researcher, whose work received massive criticism from the international science community, apologized on Wednesday that his research “was leaked unexpectedly,” but still said he was “proud” of altering the genes of twin girls so they could not contract HIV, BBC reports.

He Jiankui is an associate professor at Shenzhen’s Southern University of Science and Technology of China, but said that his research was not affiliated with the institute. The University also stated that his research violates its academic ethics, and that He is currently under investigation.

On Weibo and other Chinese social media, the topic has received great attention over the past few days. The Weibo hashtag “Gene-edited Babies” (#基因编辑婴儿#) received over 250 million views over the past two days, while the hashtag “First Case of Gene-Edited HIV Immune Babies” (#首例免疫艾滋病基因编辑婴儿#) had received 1,6 billion (!) views at time of writing.

People have responded to the controversial experiment with mixed reactions. A majority of netizens simply wonder why the researcher has not been arrested yet and what charges He may face.

But there are also quite some commenters who think the researcher has done groundbreaking work that will be important for the future. “In one hundred years time, this might be considered pioneering work. The pioneers will always be the target of an attack,” some popular comments say, with others agreeing: “New things will always be questioned and criticized.”

But then there are also those who care most about the babies, and some who think the controversial project damages China’s image. “These poor little babies have been used as guinea pigs, they will probably be followed by scientists their entire lives to be researched. What were those parents thinking? Nobody knows what kinds of effects this kind of remolding might have! This is a violation of the laws of nature.”

Others say: “This is unfortunate for the children, it is unfortunate for China, and it is unfortunate for mankind.”

Chinese state media report that the National Health Commission of the People’s Republic of China is currently investigating this case.

By Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us.

©2018 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

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What’s on Weibo provides social, cultural & historical insights into an ever-changing China. What’s on Weibo sheds light on China’s digital media landscape and brings the story behind the hashtag. This independent news site is managed by sinologist Manya Koetse. Contact info@whatsonweibo.com. ©2014-2018

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