I just want to share with you guys some of the historical context for Dream of Ding Village. Author Yan Lianke is a Chinese writer and HIV/AIDS activist who is known for his satirical writings which in turn have gotten many of his works banned in China.
The novel we are reading is based on real events that happened during the mid 1990s. The Henan Province was where many of the biotech companies that needed plasma focused their attention on. An estimated 40% of the 3 million people (mostly rural Chinese) who participated contracted AIDS! This plasma campaign did not really have any safety or health standards and consistently used unsterilized tools and reused needles. Therefore, Henan province is currently one of the highest areas of AIDS patients in China.
(Henan is yellow part in the middle)
The government until now was not helpful in the AIDS crisis. It consistently denied the alarm that AIDS was a problem in the Henan province, let alone China itself. When it became apparent that HIV was killing hundreds of thousands of rural Chinese in Henan, officials started to close down blood banks to cover up. Even current national statistics today say there are only half a million of people infected with HIV yet the real number is estimated to be much higher. When citizens started to notice people dying all around them, most had no idea it was HIV, they thought it was just some sort of secret disease or “fever.” That was another way for officials to cover their tracks: not educating the public of what was going on.
While today China has been more open about addressing the AIDS issue, it is still a touchy subject. Some of the major problems are the lack of medical awareness of the virus, inadequate investment in prevention work, and provincial secrecy and cover-up.
Hope you find this helpful with reading Dream of Ding Village.