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'Loving Heart' Families Offer Orphans Hope
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On World AIDS Day tomorrow a national campaign will be launched in China to help children in HIV/AIDS-stricken families enjoy better living conditions, more love and a brighter future.

"The whole of society should help impoverished children, whose parents are killed by HIV, regain a happy family life," said Huang Qingyi, vice-president of the All-China Women's Federation.

Warm-hearted people should offer support to the thousands of orphans most of who lived in rural and remote areas, Huang said.

Huang made the remarks at a press conference for the campaign in Kunming, capital city of southwest China's Yunnan Province, over the weekend.

The campaign, jointly sponsored by Huang's federation and the Ministry of Health, aims to mobilize hundreds of "loving heart" families to give their love to children affected by HIV/AIDS.

Vice-Minister of Health Wang Longde said that the Ministry of Health would work closely with the federation to help orphans find new families. These families would provide not only economic support to help orphans have better medical care, education and living conditions but also psychological assistance, Wang said.

The Ministry of Health and the United Nations estimated that by last year China had 650,000 HIV/AIDS sufferers. There are now nearly 80,000 AIDS orphans and the figure is expected to reach 200,000 by 2010, experts say.

Last year in 127 pilot areas where full care measures are taken for HIV/AIDS sufferers, a total of 8,644 orphans were registered by local governments, said Li Guoqiang, an official with the China Work Committee on Care for Children. The main problems faced by such children are loneliness, serious poverty, lack of confidence and dim prospects for the future, Li said.

Li's committee, technically and financially supported by the China office of the United Nations Children's Fund, started a pilot project providing comprehensive care for HIV/AIDS-affected children this April in Tongren of southwest China's Guizhou Province.

The committee and its branches at various levels enlisted the help of nearly 10 million retired officials, teachers, experts, doctors and many other well-educated people. The aim of the pilot project was to encourage retired people and their families to establish solid contact with orphans to assist them solve the problems they faced, Li said.

"These retired groups have a lot of social experience, great sympathy and various social sources which can be used to care for these children," Li explained.

Currently the most popular way for the public to help orphans was to give money, food or clothes "but it's far from enough," Li said.

Xiao Fen, an assumed name for a 13-year-old girl whose parents died of HIV/AIDS in 2002 and 2003 in Tongren, said that a retired official helped her younger sister and brother and herself.

However, she said she'd received some money from the official but only seen him once since April. "I know the telephone number of his family but I've never tried it even if I feel lonely and helpless," she said.

More efforts must be made to develop better methods to help orphans have better communication with the families who also want ideas on how to give more comprehensive care to children in difficulty, Li said.

The central government has started to give all registered orphans of HIV/AIDS families free education and other support including food and money.

(China Daily November 30, 2006)

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