Stigmas persist for nearly half a million HIV/AIDS carriers in China

World Today

There are now nearly half a million HIV/AIDS carriers in China. While the country is trying to curb the record-high spread of the disease, it has also fought the stigma that’s still attached to people with HIV.

China banned discrimination against HIV carriers ten years ago, but patients are still struggling to find their place in society.

CGTN’s Han Peng reports.

“Xiao Dong,” not his real name, contracted HIV from having unprotected sex while doing methamphetamine drugs. Since then, he’s had to come into a clinic for testing every three months at an HIV medical center in Tianjin.

“When I first took meth, I felt so stimulated, and couldn’t control myself. My mind became empty and I had delusions. It triggered a strong desire for sex,” Xiao said.

Xiao is just one of the nearly half a million HIV carriers in China, 80 percent of whom became infected through unprotected sex. In addition to their many health challenges, patients must often also cope with social discrimination.

Professor Zhang Linqi spent decades studying the social integration of HIV carriers in both China and the United States. He said so far in China, misconceptions about the disease are still a major cause of the prejudice against patients.

“Many still think they can be infected by contact like kissing, handshakes or even talking. So once a person is known to have HIV, it’s very likely that he will be marginalized by his friends, neighbors and colleagues, who want to play it safe,” Deputy Director of the HIV-AIDS Center at Tsinghua University Zhang Linqi said.

In an attempt to erase such misinformation, and teach people how to prevent the disease, a growing number of NGOs in China introduced basic courses about HIV into schools and communities. There are an estimated one thousand NGOs in China now devoted to HIV prevention and awareness.

Xiao Dong said he’s afraid that if his identity is revealed, he may lose everything, from his job and income to his social status. All because of a bad decision years ago. He is still learning to cope with his new life carrying the virus. While he may never be cured of the disease, he hopes he will live to see a society that’s more aware and tolerant.

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