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Students Help AIDS Orphans

A group of university students who have just returned from visiting AIDS-involved orphans in Henan Province are calling on their peers to change their attitudes toward the disease.

The five sophomores from Fudan University's history department visited Shuangmiao Village, one of the country's AIDS-stricken villages in central Henan Province, as their summer vacation social practice program from August 25 to 30.

Students went to meet AIDS-involved orphans - children whose parents died of AIDS or who are infected with HIV themselves - at their schools and homes, giving them English lessons, playing basketball and even having dinner with them together.

"HIV-carriers are not as dreadful as people imagine at all," said Zheng Xiaoyuan, who lead the student group. "Our main purpose was to send our love and help to those AIDS-influenced orphans and try to stamp out people's discrimination through our own experience."

Inspired by a TV documentary about AIDS orphans, Zhao Tianxu and Cheng Honglei, two of the group members, came up with the idea of trying to help those affected by AIDS at the beginning of this year.

The two students who are both natives of Henan launched a campus campaign at Fudan after the winter vacation, organizing professionals to give students lectures on AIDS and raising donations for the orphans.

More than 1,500 yuan (US$180) and 200 books were collected for the orphans, the group said.

"We really hesitated and faced great pressure from outside at first," said Zhao, whose father, a doctor, strongly opposed their plan.

"What really astonished us was the children's living and education situation in those AIDS-stricken villages. That really put us in a somber mood," Zhao said.

The plan was also endorsed by Fudan authorities, who granted 3,000 yuan worth of financial support to the program.

"We consider it a meaningful and courageous program," said Zhang Yan, an official with Fudan's history department.

In the early 1990s, hundreds of poor farmers in Henan contracted HIV through an illegal province-wide blood collection program, which left nearly 100 children in Shuangmiao orphaned or HIV-positive.

(Shanghai Daily September 10, 2004)

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