AIDS boy lives and learns in isolation

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In a remote village in Liaoning Province, home to more than 500 villagers, two schools have been built on either side of a dusty street - one for "normal" children and the other for a 14-year-old orphan AIDS sufferer.

Xiao Feng and his teacher Wang Lijun.

Xiao Feng and his teacher Wang Lijun.

For seven years, the boy, nicknamed Xiao Feng, has been studying in a 10-square-meter "charity school" built by villagers to separate him from other students because of their fear of AIDS.

The boy and his tutor, 63-year-old retired teacher Wang Lijun, are the only two people in the school, China Youth Daily reported.

Xiao Feng is well aware of the reason for his isolation. He made sounds when breathing and established the habit of coughing or spitting when nobody was around.

He told one relative: "If someone tries to bully you, I will cut my hands and pour the blood on to his body."

He knows he has AIDS, but he shows little fear, according to the newspaper. "I do not fear death," he said.

He cultivated the habit of smoking and sometimes he refused to take medicine.

The boy's affliction became known in the village seven years ago. Many parents, mostly farmers with little education, feared their children might be infected.

The parents demanded the boy be removed from the village school, so Xiao Feng was forced to drop out. To satisfy his right to be educated, they built the "charity school," actually a small room, and found a teacher for him, the newspaper said.

Since then, Xiao Feng has been left without classmates or friends, regarded as a "dangerous patient with a fatal contagious disease," according to the newspaper.

One girl told a TV interviewer: "My mom does not allow me to play with him because she said AIDS is infectious."

Many other students refused to befriend him for the same reason.

Although officials have held classes to ease villagers' fears over AIDS - pointing out the disease cannot be spread by normal daily contact - parents insisted they were in danger from the boy.

"Suppose he was playing with other children, and they all get their hands bruised or cut and become infected. Who will shoulder the responsibility?" the parents asked. There were no answers from government officials.

According to the newspaper, Xiao Feng was born carrying the virus - his parents died from AIDS three years ago, and had been diagnosed before the boy was born.

His parents were diagnosed as AIDS sufferers before they had the boy, but as their bodies remained healthy for a while, they believed it was an error by the hospital and refused medical treatment.

Despite warning from their relatives and hospital workers, they gave birth to the little boy in November 1997.

Wang Lijun, the boy's only tutor for the past seven years, is the fifth teacher village authorities have found.

Wang agreed to teach him - writing on the wall "Love each other, eliminate discrimination." He faced opposition from his wife, but he told the newspaper he persuaded her to support his effort.

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