This School Is a Refuge for China’s HIV-Positive Children

A safe haven in country where the virus is often feared and misunderstood.

via youtube screencapture

In 2014, more two hundred villagers near the Chinese city of Nanchong signed a letter calling for the removal of an eight-year-old boy with HIV. The signatories, who included the boy’s own grandfather, were deathly afraid of catching the virus.

“We are all very sympathetic and he is innocent—he is only a kid,” said the village party secretary, according to the Guardian. “But he has [AIDS]. This is too scary for us. We don’t know what to do. We hope some organization can take him.”

The story highlighted the intense stigma that comes along with an HIV diagnosis in China, as well the ignorance associated with the virus. It is a fairly rare one in the Asian country: State media estimates that just a half a million Chinese are living with HIV, though experts say the number is much higher. But patients are regularly turned away from school, the workplace, and even hospitals.

China’s health authority has since pledged to support the boy with medical treatment, an education, and a stipend. He could very well end up somewhere like the Green Harbor Red-Ribbon School, a boarding school in Linfen, China. Established in 2006 and housing about 30 HIV-positive children ages 6 to 19, the school is a refuge for those who might otherwise be dogged by stigma—perhaps unable to go to school.

The school is the subject of a forthcoming documentary by journalist and cinematographer Ann Wang and American AIDS counselor Bryan Anker. Anker lived at the Green Harbor school in 2012, reports the Huffington Post, and found himself deeply moved by the children who lived there.

"The level of awareness these children possess is mind-boggling,” Anker told HuffPo. “They fully comprehend their current situation and are well aware of how society perceives them."

The film will follow the children through school, up to the point where they must make decisions about where to go next.

"These children are smart and resilient, and some of them have thought up intricate plans for escaping the HIV stigma in China," Anker said.

“It is transmitted by mothers, so what’s so scary about it?” says one of the Green Harbor students in the documentary’s trailer. “I say, ‘It’s not our fault at all.’ … It’s just a name. I am still me.”

via youtube screencapture

(Via Huffington Post)

Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash

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