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False HIV diagnosis shadows ex-convict

By Shi Baoyin in Zhengzhou and Chen Mengwei in Beijing | China Daily | Updated: 2017-02-14 07:46

A former convict who was misdiagnosed as being HIV-positive and transferred to a prison with infected inmates has refused to accept the compensation awarded by a court in Henan province.

Sanmenxia's Hubin district court awarded Liu Jianguo 100,000 yuan ($14,540) in damages on Dec 13 after he sued the city's prison authority and center for disease control.

Yet the 57-year-old has appealed, stating that the amount is too small to cover the mental strain placed on him and his family by the misdiagnosis. He is demanding at least 400,000 yuan.

"I'm back living in my hometown in Luoyang, Henan, and my health is so-so," said Liu, who was released early for good behavior in 2015. "When I recall my days in prison with people with HIV and AIDS, it feels like a nightmare."

Liu was given 15 years for intentional injury in 2005 and sent to Sanmenxia Prison. The next year, he underwent an HIV test handled by the local CDC, which came back positive.

According to court records, the prison did not inform Liu of the result for four years to prevent "mental distress", but insisted it followed the proper procedures.

The guidelines for Henan prisons regarding HIV infections are not openly available. However, according to the current regulations in Shanghai, prisoners should be informed about any positive result within five days.

In June 2011, Liu was transferred to Yu'nan Prison, which has a unit for HIV/AIDS inmates, and placed on antiviral medication.

"I was always vomiting, I had a fever and was losing my hair," Liu told China Daily. "I couldn't eat and lost more than 10 kilograms."

Liu tested negative for HIV in late 2011, but the prison kept him on the drugs until the result was confirmed in a test in January 2012. Further tests over the following months also were negative, and he was transferred back to Sanmenxia Prison in April that year.

"In Yu'nan Prison, it was mandatory to have two haircuts a month. The barber used the same pair of scissors for everyone, with no disinfection. I felt scared about what might happen," he said.

The prison authority and CDC have denied liability and appealed against the compensation ruling. Neither responded to requests for comment from China Daily.

Zhang Jinghui, the attorney representing Liu, said the ordeal had seriously affected not only his client, but also his family. The court heard that Liu's father fell sick after news of the positive result, his wife developed depression and his daughter attempted to commit suicide.

"We hold that 100,000 yuan is not enough to compensate for his experience," Zhang added.

After being released from prison, Liu was again given the all-clear after a test at a CDC medical clinic.

"Coming out of prison, despite the freedom, many people now despise me because they believe I have AIDS. When I go to buy vegetables, I can hear people whispering," he said. "I gave my medical reports to relatives and friends, but many of them still think I have AIDS. I'm also having trouble finding a job.

"After my experience, I have a shadow in my heart. People say everyone is equal in front of the law. I just want justice," he added.

Qi Xin contributed to this story.

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