Podcast: Story in the Story (10/30/2019 Wed.)
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From the People's Daily App.

This is Story in the Story.

The government's guideline to implement the Healthy China Initiative focusing on disease prevention, chronic disease management, and high-quality treatment will lead to an overhaul and transformation of the health industry.

The initiative extends to everyone in China, including the country’s prisoners.

In 2008, Jianshui Prison was the first to set up a unique HIV/AIDS prison zone, amid existing public fear over AIDS, with a pilot program to centralize the treatment of HIV/AIDS prisoners from all over the province. 

Almost all of the prison officers who work here have wanted to leave more than once, due to concern from their families or discrimination from society because of their proximity to HIV/AIDS patients.

The majority of patients admitted to the hospital are from the Eighth Prison yard, an isolated area exclusively for HIV/AIDS prisoners. 

Today’s Story in the Story looks at how China’s penal system cares for prisoners who have HIV or AIDS, and the doctors and medical staff responsible for administering high-quality treatment. 


Tang Shunbao (Center) makes the rounds of wards for HIV-affected inmates. (Photo: Global Times)

The custom-made uniform is now too large for Tang Shunbao, 53, a prison doctor. Gallbladder cancer has made him lose 16 kilograms over the past few months, and left his arms looking like a 10-year-old's, saddening many prisoners who have previously been treated by him. 

For the past 18 years, Tang has been the head of Jianshui Prison Hospital in Southwest China's Yunnan Province, and has devoted all his energy to caring for prisoners with HIV and AIDS. 

The majority of patients admitted to the hospital are from the Eighth Prison yard, an isolated prison area exclusively for HIV/AIDS prisoners. 

This group, who most people tend to be frightened by, are the ones who Tang works for every day and night.

In 2018 alone, the medical team led by Tang Shunbao treated hundreds of criminals with HIV/AIDS. 

In his wife's words, Tang has been on the brink of AIDS for nearly two decades, referring to two serious incidents in which he was exposed to this disease.

Back in 2010, Tang suffered one of his worst occupational exposures to HIV as he was imprisoning an HIV-positive criminal.

Along the way, the criminal surnamed Ao suddenly suffered an AIDS-related encephalopathy and began vomiting, banging his head against the glass and pounding the car window. 

Tang's white coat was immediately covered with vomit and soaked in blood. Without regard for his own safety, Tang tried to control the prisoner to prevent him from further hurting himself.

Although he has been in this job for decades, seeing someone die due to a collapsed immune system has always been a wretched experience. 

"I dread to hear a midnight knock at the door because it must mean someone is critically ill," Tang said. 


Tang Shunbao (Photo: Global Times)

Ten years on, there are nearly 10 times as many prisoners here as there were when the isolated prison area was first established. Many of them are major criminal offenders, doomed to serve life sentences while battling AIDS.

"Serving hundreds of AIDS criminals together in a cell feels like a group of people sitting on a powder keg," Yin Tao, another officer in the specialized prison area said.

A prison term is longer than your life - this is a saying widely heard among prisoners with HIV/AIDS. Most of them are pessimistic and give up on life, and some even hurt themselves, said Yin.

In the Eighth Prison yard, many HIV/AIDS-affected inmates refuse to take antiviral drugs because they don't believe the treatment will work. Tang produces his own promotional materials and goes to the ward every month to tell them about the effectiveness, using scientific data to back his case. 

"I was asked if it was worth the effort to save the lives of criminals. I never thought about it. I just knew it was my job to save lives. For me, being a doctor and an officer are two very noble careers," he said.

Kui, 53, is in prison for drug trafficking, and had festering feet due to severe phlebitis and was unable to walk. 

"But Tang never gave up on me. He came every day to personally change my dressing, clean my wound, and constantly encourage and comfort me," he said.

A year on, Kui’s condition improved, and now he can walk. He also has renewed confidence in being able to conquer AIDS.

"I thought I was an outcast, but when I came in, I found I wasn't," said Kui.

(Produced by Nancy Yan Xu, Lance Crayon, Brian Lowe and Paris Yelu Xu. Music by: bensound.com. Text from Global Times and China Daily.)