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Premier's visit brings hope to Henan AIDS-hit villages
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Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's visit to several AIDS-hit villages in Shangcai County in the central Henan Province in November has left villagers with great hope of leading a better life.

During his Nov. 30 visit, Wen met farmers who had contracted HIV through illegal blood sales in the 1990s and orphans whose parents had died from AIDS.

The premier met Kong Chunyi and other AIDS patients at a clinic in Wenlou Village, home to 373 HIV carriers, a 10th of the village's population.

"I remember he asked me more than a dozen questions," said Kong. "When were you diagnosed with HIV?" "When did you begin to take medicine?" "What kinds of medicine?" "Did the medicine have any side effects?" "Are you the only one in your family who suffers from AIDS?" and other questions Kong answered in detail.

Kong said the premier inspected the clinic and talked with patients who were receiving transfusions. Wen then went further into the village, shaking hands and talking with villagers who stood along the roadside.

Wenlou is a vegetable production base but its products do not sell well due to prejudice by some outsiders. Wen called for greater public awareness about the disease so as to eliminate prejudice against AIDS patients.

"You can tell them the premier has eaten Wenlou's vegetable today," he told villagers.

He then visited the homes of two HIV-infected villagers, Cheng Caixia and Hou Qiuxia. Wen was glad to learn Hou's daughter had passed the university entrance examination last summer and was now away studying. More than a dozen students in the village enter college annually.

"Good fortune will come after hardship, the future of the village is bright," he said.

Wuhan University Professor Gui Xi'en, who had visited Shangcai County more than 30 times, accompanied Wen on his November visit. He said the overall situation in Wenlou Village has greatly improved in the past years with the help of the government and society.

The visit was Wen's second to Shangcai. He first visited the county in 2005 on the Spring Festival eve.

The county is well known for its high incidence of HIV caused by the illegal blood deals. Among the 38 worst AIDS-hit villages in Henan, 22 are in Shangcai.

A report released in November said China officially reported 223,500 HIV contracted cases, including 62,838 AIDS patients, by October, while about 700,000 were estimated to be living with HIV/AIDS.

(Xinhua News Agency February 22, 2008)

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