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Orphans of AIDS Victims to Live with Volunteer Families

From August 12 to 17, 86 families in Beijing will temporarily adopt 86 orphans of AIDS victims from around China, in a bid to discourage discrimination and provide the orphans with warmth and compassion.

The activity, called the "Second Summer Camp for Orphans of AIDS Victims," is being jointly launched by the China Youth Concern Committee (CYCC) and the Beijing Huaxia Charity Foundation, a non-government organization.

"After we inform the public of collecting families that are willing to live with AIDS orphans for two days, we received more than 270 families' applications, which is really a surprise," said Li Guoqiang, an official with CYCC said.

The 86 volunteer families cover a wide range of social strata, from movie stars to high ranking officials, from retirees to on-the-job teachers, from entrepreneurs to army soldiers. "They are all wealthy and warm-hearted enough to accept these disadvantaged children," Li said, "Revealing an encouraging strength in the society to take care of AIDS orphans."

An estimated 76,000 children in China were orphaned by HIV/AIDS, with at least one parent dying, according to figures from China disease control center. Experts said that the number is expected to grow to 260,000 in the year of 2010.

The disease touches every aspect of children's lives, not just their health.

Experts said these kids are suffering from social bias against HIV victims, some have been kicked out of schools or turned away even from orphanages.

"The emotional toll alone can be devastating as children suffer from isolation, loss of self-esteem and depression," Christian Voumard, UNICEF's China representative, told a seminar on a previous occasion.

But the situation has been improving.

Not only have Chinese leaders and high-ranking officials shaken hands with HIV/AIDS patients and eaten meals with them in front of news cameras, many folk activities have also revealed burgeoning efforts to undermine the disease's bad public image.

In the summer camp last year, CYCC spent two months finding a place for the orphans to stay. They were refused by nearly 40 hotels and institutions in Beijing, whose owners feared that receiving them would negatively affect their businesses. This year, however, not only hotels offered AIDS orphans preferential prices, but tourist spots they will visit all exempted them from ticket fees, the CYCC official Li Qimin told Xinhua.
(Xinhua News Agency August 10, 2005)

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