Aging Chinese AIDS Activist’s Life in Exile

Gao Yaoji who now resides in Harlem has dedicated her life to raising awareness for AIDS in China. (Photo via WIkimedia Commons)

Gao Yaojie, who now resides in Harlem, has dedicated her life to raising awareness for AIDS in China. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

Gao Yaojie, once one of China’s leading AIDS activists, now lives in a modest apartment in Harlem. At age 87, her health is deteriorating, but she is watched over by a dedicated group of visitors.  Journalist Yelin Hong visited her home with graduate student Zhuang Joy and wrote a profile about Gao for the Brooklyn Ink.

Gao’s activism led to her being placed under house arrest in 2007. Two years later Gao came to the U.S.

Frail and sick, she ended up in an apartment in Harlem, where she was left to fend for herself.

Until the students began to arrive.

Most of the members of Zhuang’s group are Chinese graduate students. They take turns visiting Gao every week. They act as parents, editors, translators, guardians and grandchildren.

These students call themselves the “Weekly Visit to Gao.”

 The group of 30 young Chinese students had taken upon themselves to provide the care, feeding and protection of Dr. Gao Yaojie.

A practicing gynecologist in China, Gao worked in Henan province in the 1990s when AIDS was first emerging in China. As she wrote in her autobiography, “The Soul of Gao Yaojie,” the HIV virus was spread in China through the incomplete sterilization of medical instruments and poor blood donation methods.

She demanded that the government regulate the blood market, and she questioned government claims that the majority of HIV-infected patients acquired the virus through drug use or sexual intercourse.

To learn more about Gao’s remarkable fight for AIDS awareness in China and the group of dedicated students that currently tend to her well-being, read the original article.

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