China’s history with AIDS explains a puzzling aspect of the ‘CRISPR babies’ story

Scandals and government cover-ups in China have left a lasting imprint of stigma and fear about HIV and AIDS — and discrimination.
Men who were infected with HIV due to unsanitary blood-plasma buying schemes and tainted transfusions in hospitals in China take part in a group meeting for people living with AIDS at a center for health education in Beijing. Source: Elizabeth Dalziel/AP

The first time I met someone in China dying from complications of AIDS, he had never heard of the illness that had already killed thousands of his fellow citizens.

This was not the early 1980s, when the world was still stunned and stumped by the mystery virus that causes AIDS and its swift and deadly spread around the globe. It was 2007, barely more than a decade ago, in a rural village on the Chinese border with Myanmar, ground zero of China’s first AIDS epidemic. HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, first entered China from Myanmar, borne by the needles that accompanied a persistent regional heroin addiction.

That ignorance among

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