Audio book aims to end childhood AIDS stigma

Updated 2018-03-08 10:44:01 China Daily

Actor Huang Xiaoming plays a game with children at the launch ceremony of an audio book, The Bravest Boy I Know, in Beijing on Tuesday. The book, released by the UNAIDS China office, aims to combat AIDS-related discrimination, especially against children. (Provided to China Daily)

The UNAIDS China office released on Tuesday The Bravest Boy I Know, a free Chinese-language audio book, to raise awareness and fight AIDS-related discrimination, particularly against children.

Chinese actor Huang Xiaoming, a UNAIDS national goodwill ambassador, provides the voice for central character Xiaoming, an 8-year-old HIV sufferer.

The book tells the story of a friendship between Xiaoming and Xiaoli, who is HIV free, and sends the message that with treatment and support from families, friends and school, children with HIV/AIDS can have a normal and happy childhood.

It was released to mark Zero Discrimination Day, which falls annually on March 1, and can be downloaded for free from the UNAIDS China website.

"These are children who were born with HIV. They are young people yearning for a better future. The more I listen to their stories, the more I'm eager to do something to help them," Huang said at the book launch in Beijing.

"I want more people to know about this community instead of avoiding and discriminating against them."

Pride Chigwedere, senior policy and strategy adviser for UNAIDS China, added: "Discrimination will not disappear without actively addressing the ignorance, practices and beliefs that fuel it. Ending discrimination requires action from everyone."

About 450,000 people are living with HIV in China, with most HIV-positive children contracting the virus from their infected mother, central government statistics show. Many grow up facing some form of discrimination, either at school, in the healthcare system or from society.

Linfen Red Ribbon School in Linfen, Shanxi province, caters to children with HIV/AIDS and even arranges a separate national college entrance exam for its 16 students.

Guo Xiaoping, principal of the school and former president of Linfen Third People's Hospital, said the testing arrangement was done out of care for the HIV-positive children. "They all need mental peace to handle this important exam," he said.

In fact, cross-generational infections can be virtually eliminated thanks to a treatment known as the "prevention of mother to child transmission" vaccine, experts say.

Infected pregnant women using the vaccine can substantially lower the chances of giving birth to HIV-positive babies. Starting in 2015, the central government began providing the vaccine for free nationwide.

The government has set the goal of eliminating mother-to-child HIV transmission by 2020. The rate currently stands at around 5 percent.

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