Tue, December 01, 2009
Lifestyle > Health > 2009 World AIDS Day

China's HIV/AIDS social groups bring hope to affected population

2009-12-01 09:21:26 GMT2009-12-01 17:21:26 (Beijing Time)  Xinhua English

BEIJING, Dec. 1 (Xinhua) -- Mu Rongfeng, a civil servant in north China' s Hebei Province, donated blood in 2005 and one day after, he found that his colleges were avoiding him. He didn't think much about it until someone told him that he was tested HIV-positive.

"My whole world collapsed. And all of my friends have left me," said Mu. "Once I bumped into a close friend on my way to the office, I smiled at her but she just walked by me as if I didn't exist."

Mu is not an isolated case in China. A total of 319,877 people had been registered HIV positive as of Oct. 31, according to statistics released on a national AIDS control meeting in Shanghai on November 24.

After being confirmed of HIV infection, Mu was under a lot of pressure. For someone living in the shadow of death, friends who can be there for him are what Mu needs badly.

"For three months, I never left my house. At that moment, all I wanted was that someone could give me a call and see if I'm OK. Actually someone did call me," said Mu with a bitter smile, "but he asked me whether dining with me would give him HIV, since we had eaten out a lot."

Feeling cut-out prompted Mu to contact other people living with HIV/AIDS and later founded Hebei Light of Love Care Group for PWHA (people with HIV/AIDS) in 2007.

Many people with HIV/AIDS approach Mu for both emotional and material support, since some have been kicked out of home due to social stigma.

"When I was abandoned by my family in 2006, it was the care group who took me in and gave me the hope to live," said an HIV patient who refuse to give his name.

"We even spent the Spring Festival in Mu's home," said Ms. Li whose son was infected HIV/AIDS, "Mu's parents are very nice to us. They are like family to me."

"Sometimes a dozen people crash in my apartment," said Mu, a Good Samaritan who finds it hard to turn his back on the PWHA.

His group gives counseling, practical help, and most important, friendship and love to the affected people.

"I was devastated when my son told me that he was infected," said Ms. Li who burst into tears as she spoke, "but now I know that HIV/AIDS is a chronic disease, rather than a death sentence."

But it is not easy to care for others especially when Mu himself also needs financial support and care.

"It involves a lot of work to reach out to other affected people," said Mu, "But the most difficult part is to watch friends die of AIDS-related diseases because of the lack of money. To be honest, I want to quit from time to time."

Now Mu's care group helps over 200 people with HIV/AIDS in Hebei Province. It joined the China Alliance of People Living with HIV/AIDS.

"I don't think Mu can walk away from the group," said Meng Lin, coordinator of the Ark of Love, who spoke from his own experience as a care-giver. Meng has been living with HIV for 14 years, probably the longest for people with HIV/AIDS in China.

"Meng Lin is our spiritual leader," Mu joked, "Seeing him healthy gives us the hope to live on."

The Ark of Love is a PWHA information support network organization founded in 2005 and was elected to serve as the secretariat of the China Alliance of People Living with HIV/AIDS.

The alliance include 108 social groups, which covers all provinces in China except for Taiwan, Qinghai and Tibet, said Ren Shaopeng, who works for the alliance.

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