This is one of the greatest pieces of news that have reached us recently about the fight against HIV/AIDS: since the number of new HIV cases during the 10 month period between January and October of this year in China rose with 13 % compared to the same period last year, the premier-in-waiting Li Keqiang (who comes to power in spring 2013) has promised to let non-governmental organisations (NGO's) play a bigger role in the fight against HIV/AIDS from now on.
As the virus has now almost reached epidemic proportions in the biggest country of the world, Li met the NGO's that work around the issues of HIV and AIDS and stated: “You have a greater understanding of what sufferers want … the government will continue to offer support, will pay even greater attention to -and listen more closely to- the voices of civil society groups and you will be given a greater space to play your role.” There were also pictures taken of Li shaking hands with HIV-infected people and in a country where HIV+ persons have been systematically discriminated and harassed -even by health care professionals- this is a huge step forward towards a more equal society for people suffering from HIV/AIDS.
Hopefully even more positive changes are to come, as the wife of the president-to-be and famous singer Peng Liyuan (pictured) is the World Health Organisation’s Goodwill Ambassador for Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Since HIV is such a taboo subject in China (the country didn’t recognize the disease until the 1990’s), having a famous celebrity – who is married to the president-to-be – speak out is a very good thing indeed for the cause. We're looking forward to a healthier future together!
Update in People's Daily from December 4, 2012:
Eliminating the discrimination against HIV/AIDS patients and letting them have the courage and conditions to receive normal medical services will not only protect them but also protect the general public, says an article in People's Daily. Excerpts:
On the 25th World AIDS Day, Minister Chen Zhu of the Ministry of Health said the discrimination makes many people feel reluctant to seek consultation and tests. As a result more than half of HIV/AIDS infections are not detected in China and this avoidable situation further aggravates the transmission risks of the virus.
Many people link AIDS with an immoral lifestyle, involving frequent sexual intercourse and drug abuse. But they never reflect on their ignorance of the disease's transmission and whether they are justified in stigmatizing the infected because of their prejudice and ignorance.
The dreaded disease has already inflicted the minds and bodies of the patients. Society's discrimination may become the straw that breaks the camel's back, driving them to take revenge on society.
As humans have greater knowledge on the disease, the spread of AIDS can be effectively checked and the death rate of AIDS patients can also be kept lower with proactive treatments.
The most fearsome thing is not the disease, but the ignorance and prejudice of the disease. However they became infected with the disease, the infected are a disadvantaged group and they should enjoy their legal rights and respect as humans. This is the basic requirement for their treatment as well as a symbol of a modern and fair society.
Taking off the tinted spectacles of the public is the very first step to help the AIDS patients to recover their confidence in life and future.