Blood selling in Central China, drug use, and sexual transmission in southwest China are the primary reasons for the spread of AIDS in China.
In the 1990s, a lot of impoverished peasants in China, in their desperation to put food on the table for their family, sold blood to make some extra money. Due to the unsanitary blood collection practice at the time, many such peasants unwittingly contracted HIV. As high as 60% of the adult population was estimated to be infected with HIV in some villages. Many subsequently died of AIDS, leaving young orphans with a bleak future. Others are so sick they can no longer take care of the young, nor work to earn money to support their education, causing many children previously at school to drop out. The United Nations Children’s Fund once estimated that there were more than 500,000 AIDS-impacted children in China. Worse still, the largely uneducated peasant population fear that they will be contaminated if they come into contact with these children, and so the AIDS-impacted children have essentially become outcasts in their own communities, having to grow up isolated, unable to lead a normal life. They often face tremendous discrimination and are bullied by their peers. Most of these children are not HIV-infected, as their parents contracted the disease after they were born. What they sorely need is the opportunity to pursue an education so that they can stand on their own feet when they grow up. They also need psychosocial therapy to overcome the childhood trauma of losing their loved ones and their feeling of growing up unwanted and unloved by the world.
The Government has become increasingly aware of the AIDS orphans issue and is establishing assistance programs for them. However, given the large number of such orphans and their rapidly declining conditions, the efforts could not reach as many children and as quickly as it should. Besides, the system does not assist children who have either lost one parent or have one or both parents currently dying of AIDS. The government also does not sponsor education for seniors in high school or above, nor is it as adept as NGOs are at psychosocial care and vocational training. Helping them heal from the dark shadows in their psyche is one of the keys in turning around their sad fate.
Because of our success and experience in helping these AIDS-impacted children over the years, in recent years, we have also expanded our services to similarly support other AIDS-impacted children outside the heavy blood-selling areas.