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College students enter AIDS town
By Liu Dan (chinadaily.com.cn)
Updated: 2005-10-20 14:18

Two college girls traveled to a specially designated AIDS village to carry out a 20-day project to assist HIV carriers and AIDS patients in hopes of increasing understanding and tolerance for those afflicted by the AIDS virus.

Ding Ling, a Lanzhou University sophomore, said she thought of going to the village after reading an article about a medical institute that provides free anti-virus medicine and examinations to more than 400 confirmed HIV carriers in Junchuan, a township of Suizhou city, in Central China's Hubei Province.

College students enter AIDS town
Ding Ling has lunch in a family with AIDS patient. [baidu]

She was deeply touched by the Suizhou effort because she had never expected that so many AIDS patients were in her hometown, where she had grown up nearly 20 years before entering university.

She told fellow student and hometown friend, Zhou Wang, who also attends Lanzhou University. Zhou was also very shocked.

At that time, the university was asking students to select summer social topics for projects to undertake.

Ding proposed the idea of accessing the AIDS town, and university officials approved the project. After contacting officials at the institution, Ting got on the train for her hometown with Zhou Wang on July 20.

Ding said the pair soon discovered that misconceptions AIDS patients were profligate or degenerate exist when people refer to AIDS.

In Junchuan town, for instance, 90 percent of the sufferers were infected when selling blood trying to raise money to pay school tuition for their children.

Several years ago illegal blood banks paid money to poor farmers for their blood, but lax hygiene standards led to many people becoming infected.

After HIV, it is meaningless to protect their privacy, what people really require is care and assistance from society, Ding quoted one patient as saying.

Xia Zhihua, the doctor in charge of the institution, said that of the 50,000 population in the town, more than 500 are HIV carriers. The infection ratio is up to 1 percent.

On July 21, when the two girls finished breakfast in a small restaurant after they just arrived the town, the keeper told Ding in a low voice that the man who ate breakfast beside her was an AIDS patient, which surprised the two. AIDS was all around them.

AIDS patients in Junchuan town live just as anyone else does. They do not stay in any one centralized place to receive treatment. If they need help, they go to the medical institution just like any other patient would.

There are no divorce cases in the town because of HIV infections, and local residents do not discriminate the HIV carriers, the two girls said.

The students said their most unforgettable day was July 26 when they had the lunch with a female AIDS patient whose husband knew of her illness before they were married but still resolutely loved her and took on the responsibility of looking after his wife.

After the pair returned to school, many friends urged them to go to the hospital to check whether they had been infected or not. They just smiled, declining to be checked. HIV can only be spread by sexual contact or blood-to-blood contact.

The biggest wish for Ding is to see an 8-year-old child, Huan Huan, who was infected by her mother, during upcoming Spring Festival. She hopes to bring the little girl some clothes and food, and to take along a professional camera to record happy moments in the lives of AIDS patients.

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