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Chinese farmers claiming they were infected through blood transfusions detained

AIDS patients who were demanding better medical treatment and access to records that would help prove they were infected through hospital blood transfusions, were manhandled and detained be Chinese authorities, protesters said Wednesday.

Police detained 15 AIDS patients from Henan province in Beijing on Wednesday, where they had gone to push for better medical care and compensation for victims, said Sun Ailing, one of 13 others in the group who were not taken by police.

The reported rough treatment points to the government's lingering reluctance to acknowledge past incompetence that caused the virus to spread widely in the central province of Henan during the 1990s. Many of those infections have been linked to unhygienic blood-buying rings that allegedly operated with official protection.

Sun said protesters planned to visit the petition office under the State Council on Thursday, where Chinese citizens can legally file complaints.

"Let them detain us, more will always come," Sun said.

On Monday 18 AIDS patients were forcibly removed from the Ningling County Women and Children's Hospital in Henan after staging a sit-in to demand copies of their medical records, protesters said.

The group included 15 women who had received blood transfusions there, along with three men who had contracted the virus from their wives, said protester Xu Xianli in a telephone interview Wednesday.

Xu and fellow protester Wang Fengying said a county official told the group their records could not be released without a special central government order. They said they were dragged from the hospital by riot police and officials after being threatened with tear gas.

Xu said his wife had a transfusion at the hospital after a Caesarean section delivery in 1995. Wang said she had a transfusion there after a miscarriage in January 1999 and learned she was HIV positive after another miscarriage five years later.

When contacted by telephone, a hospital clerk said files from cases before 2000 had been lost during a move, but hung up before giving details or his name.

An operator at the Ningling County public security bureau, who gave only her surname, Xie, said no one in the office was aware of any sit-in.

After years of denying that AIDS was a problem, Chinese leaders have in recent years confronted the disease more openly, promising anonymous testing, free treatment for the poor and a ban on discrimination against people with the virus.

The U.N. has praised China's progress, but said authorities need to reach more patients and overcome a lack of cooperation from some government officials.

There are an estimated 650,000 people living with HIV in China, according to the most recent government statistics from 2005.

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