"When I was a student, I heard of AIDS and thought it was pretty faraway and would not happen to me. But years later, when I woke up to the situation, I found I was already a victim."
Twenty-five-year-old Zhu Liya (a pseudonym) told her own story to several hundred students in a lecture hall at Ningxia University on her voluntary AIDS prevention promotional tour.
Zhu was reported by Chinese media as the first college student to have made herself known to the public as an HIV carrier. She contracted HIV several years ago through sex with her foreign boyfriend when she studied in a Chinese university.
Experiencing feelings of fear, despair and suffering discrimination, some young AIDS victims like Zhu have chosen to stand up in public to join the battle against the disease instead of keeping silent and withdrawing from society.
"It is worth making my own tragedy public if it can help save some young people from being threatened by the disease," Zhu said.
The bold girl has given lectures on AIDS prevention in a number of universities ever since the beginning of this year.
"Some college students are quite pure and sometimes put their own feelings first without considering anything else," said the girl. "They are in need of proper instruction."
Tian Dawei, a homosexual male diagnosed with HIV in 2004 in Beijing, said he was planning to shoot a movie based on his own story to make people show more care to HIV carriers.
"I hope more people will understand and accept HIV carriers and encourage them to keep an active attitude toward life," said Tian.
He said he had finished writing the film script and was hoping to receive funding.
Li Dongliang, director of the Venereal Disease and AIDS Prevention Institute of Beijing's Chaoyang district, said with the spread of knowledge about AIDS, people were beginning to take a rational view toward the disease.
"But one still needs to have great courage and undertake risks to make public his or her AIDS/HIV condition as society has not completely accepted this group of people," he said.
Due to traditional thinking, many people still relate the disease with morality issues so under these circumstance, AIDS can not only claim one's life, but also shatter his personal dignity, according to Zhu. Social prejudice makes an AIDS/HIV sufferer feel ashamed of admitting their condition and thus unable to receive normal treatment, the girl said.
By the end of October 2007, a total of 223,501 people had been officially reported to have contracted HIV, including 62,838 AIDS patients, according to a report by the Ministry of Health, the World Health Organization and UNAIDS.
Official reports say an estimated 700,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in China.
"It will be conducive to preventing AIDS if AIDS/HIV people make public their own experiences and more should participate in this battle," said Jing Jun, an expert on AIDS policies at Tsinghua University.
(Xinhua News Agency December 2, 2007)