10,001 Letters

For my latest reading project, I am doing The Investigation of AIDS in China by Dr. Gao Yaojie, named as one of the Asian heroes by TIME Asia.

Actually, her more popular book is known as 10,000 letters.  As she carried on her work in the Henan AIDS villages, her name became known and people began to write her.  When she reached 10,001 letters received, she paused and selected more than 200 of those letters to be collected into a book.  By her choice, she did not receive one dime in loyalty payment; in lieu of that, she asked the publisher to take the amount of the theoretical loyalty payment and converted them into equivalent number of copies of the book.  Thus, she received 1,900 copies of 10,000 Letters which she distributed freely to AIDS sufferers, media people, medical/health institutions, and so on.  In the book that I am reading, she has given out about 500 copies already.  A certain outside health institution for women and children asked for nine copies, and offered to pay for them.  Gao refused to accept payment as a matter of principle.  The institution remembered that Gao had to mail these books to outsiders, so they purchased more than two hundred yuan worth of stamps and gave them to Gao to cover future postage expenses.

Now people always find Gao's well-knowned principle of rejecting all donations to be perplexing.  Surely, she could use money in her work.  Why did she refuse loyalties?  Why did she decline contributions from groups or individuals?

Here is Gao's explanation about why she did not want to be used. -- there are too many crooks in this world.  As those letters came in, she paused to tabulate at the point when she reached 8,326 letters.  By her analysis, 812 of those letters came from crooks.  What does she mean by a crook?  Some of these people offered fake treatment or medicines for the purpose of making money while some were trying to use Gao's reputation for self-serving purposes.  They were cold-blooded animals who dared to claim that they can guarantee 100% effectiveness in curing AIDS.  Gao noted that on the morning of November 8, 2004, four different people came to her and offered proposals such as "the single-injection cure for AIDS."  Gao said, "These people are crooks.  I have been practicing medicine for 40 years, and I can't even guarantee that I can cure the common flu with 100% certainty.  So how can they deliver on their promises?"

Here are some more of those letters:

The question is: With all these letters, where does Gao Yaojie find the time to do promote AIDS prevention?

Another problem: What do you suppose Gao Yaojie can do about a letter like this one on January 9, 2001?:

Esteemed Doctor Gao:

I am from a village in Lugang Township in Shangcao County.  My father is named Xia.  Between 1988 to 1993, there was a social movement to sell blood here.  My mother is a hardworking and capable person living in an impoverished village.  In order to earn money to allow me and my younger brother to attend school, she decided to sell her blood.  During the past two years, there are many, many HIV-infected persons who have passed away here.  Last August, my mother took a test and found out that she was HIV-positive.  Where can she can cured?  Dr. Gao, I only want to tell you this: I need my mother!  I feel so sorry for my mother!  I will do whatever it takes to cure my mother!  Dr. Gao, among the mass of humanity out there, I perceived your outstanding warmth.  Will you lend your warm hand to comfort the cold heart of a little girl?  Please write back!

This letter is more representative of what Gao receives.  If she gets a letter from an obvious crook, she can shake her head, try to stay calm and go about her business.  If she gets a heartbreaking letter like this, what can she possibly do to alleviate the pain?