China To Build First Official AIDS Orphanage, Conduct Mandatory HIV Education for High School Students
China plans to build its first official orphanage for AIDS orphans in Shangcai County in Henan province, Huang Mengfu, chair of the All-China Federation of Industry and Commerce, announced on Tuesday, Xinhuanet/ChinaView reports (Xinhuanet/ChinaView, 6/15). Henan province gained international attention in the early 1990s after it was discovered that farmers there were among hundreds of thousands of poor Chinese who contracted HIV through a government-sponsored blood collection program. The program paid farmers for their blood and sold it at state hospitals and private clinics (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/27). There are an estimated 2,000 AIDS orphans in Henan, and most live with relatives on a monthly government stipend of about $15 per month, with an additional $3.63 for each family. About 200 orphans and 52 older people live in 20 "Sunshine Homes" that the Henan government has spent $1.5 million to build over the past year (Shi, South China Morning Post, 6/16). The new orphanage -- which will be called "Red Ribbon Family" -- will be funded through the China Red Ribbon Foundation, a not-for-profit organization co-founded by the federation and 20 private companies (Xinhuanet/ChinaView, 6/15). Construction of the orphanage, the first phase of which will cost more than $400,000, will begin this year, Huang said, adding that it will admit children ages six to nine. "As a special and disadvantaged social group, AIDS orphans deserve the most love and assistance from society," Huang said at the inaugural meeting of the foundation, adding, "They not only suffer a low-quality material life but also meet with discrimination, which is completely unfair" (Agence France-Presse, 6/16).
Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao on a tour of Hubei province recently said that the government would offer increased financial assistance for orphans, Xinhua News/China Daily reports. In addition, the country has decided to make AIDS prevention education mandatory for high school students starting this fall. "The government will increase its allocations for fighting the disease and continue to offer free treatment for people who have been infected by the virus," Wen said (Xinhua News/China Daily, 6/16). In addition, the government plans to offer free and anonymous HIV testing and treatment, Wen said, according to Agence France-Presse (Agence France-Presse, 6/16). The Chinese government estimates that there are 840,000 HIV-positive people in the country and that 80,000 people have AIDS; however, some experts believe that those figures are an underestimate. The United Nations estimates that there are at least one million HIV-positive people in China (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 5/27).