Living with AIDS

Imagine getting terribly sick every other wk from the most minuscule of causes (not washing your hand, allergies, fatigue), imagine your body covered with enlarged lymph nodes, and your belly swollen to the size of 8-month pregnancy, now imagine your parents gone and family so afraid to even go near you, oh and I almost forgot to tell you, you are only 5 yrs old. This is the life of an AIDS-affected orphan, a life that no matter how much you try to learn about, will never fully understand. What I will attempt to do through my posts is to present an accurate account of their circumstances and the conditions I saw through my eyes, so that you may be able to not only appreciate your own life but also learn to respect others.

I recently visited the Fuyang AIDS Orphan Salvation Org. aka AOS, located in North Anhui Province, the epicenter of AIDS and poverty in China today. It is one of the few non-government affiliated salvation organizations in China, and the only one dealing with AIDS-affected orphans. The title” AIDS-affected orphans” is something of a novelty, for it didn’t exist in China until recently. From the late 90s to early 00s, many poor farmers in China’s rural villages resorted to selling organs (kidneys, spleens) and blood to acquire income in order to support their families. During this process it seems that not much attention was paid to cleaning the syringes involved, and the HIV virus became an travelling bandwagon of doom as it swept through the desolated villages in rural China. What remained after the storm was thousands of orphans (most born with HIV inherited from their parents) living in an environment completely ignorant in the education AIDS, and utterly penniless to receive any treatment.

Since the start of the organization in 2003, blood selling has been extinct in the area (credit also due to China’s rising economy), and over 6,000 orphans have been helped to sponsor families who have also lost members of its family to AIDS. With the comforts of a family, and a steady supply of medicine, most of the kids are now able to live just as healthy as every other kid, only difference is they also have to live with the discrimination and that discrimination will only get worse as they go on to the workforce. What I am trying to do is to change the perspective on AIDS starting with the education of their peers, which is the main source of their discrimination on a daily basis. And compound that with jointly held activities such as Nike-sponsored basketball tournaments and Johnson-Johnson sponsored summer camps to Beijing to show them that there is really no big enough difference between AIDS patients and healthy folks to warrant such discrimination, it should instead be respect oozing out of their bodies, not fear.

As you probably can tell, these past couple of days has had a huge impact on me. I will visit AOS again in the summer (around mid-June) before I head back to the USA for college, it would be honor if any of you would like to join me. The organization is currently working with graduate students from Harvard and MIT. Contact me if you are interested, my good friend Hong Chen has already send me his admiration for the organization’s work and interest in helping.

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