Liu Ziliang's life mission is clear. As the first Chinese HIV-positive patient to appear before the country's media undisguised, Liu will show his bravery once more as he begins a 1,000-kilometre bike trip to promote AIDS awareness.
"I do not know how much longer I will live in this world but I want to make the rest of the years of my life more valuable," Liu said. The 33-year-old HIV-carrier comes from the countryside of Central China's Henan Province.
On February 28, Liu and Zhu Ming, president of the Beijing Xinxing Hospital, will travel from Beijing to Shanghai on bicycles to raise awareness of AIDS prevention. Along the way, Liu will tell people of his experience of being infected by the HIV virus and urge people not to discriminate against AIDS patients.
AIDS patients topped 600,000 in the Chinese mainland in 2000, according to statistics from the Ministry of Health. The number of HIV-carriers increased at a rate of 30 to 40 percent annually. Liu most likely contracted the virus during a blood donation in the early 1990s.
A doctor discovered he was HIV positive in 1999 during a routine health check-up. On December 1, World AIDS Day, Liu made history as he became the first HIV patient to appear on television uncovered before millions of viewers.
"Even though he has the virus, he is completely mentally healthy," said Zhu, who is also a good friend. "His courage and his love to his family and society has moved me greatly." Zhu will care for Liu during the arduous trip, which includes visits to Tianjin, Jinan, Xuzhou, Nanjing, Wuxi and Suzhou along the country's east coast.
It is expected to conclude on March 10. The two plan to travel 80 to 100 kilometers each day with banners on their bikes. They will also speak at cities along the way and distribute more than 10,000 brochures about AIDS prevention by the Ministry of Health. Trips to the countryside, including Liu's hometown in Shenqiu County, are also planned if Liu's health permits.
"Farmers in my hometown are ignorant about the AIDS disease," said Liu. "We will allot changes to our schedule based on his health conditions," Zhu said.
(China Daily January 28, 2002)