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AIDS-orphaned Children Grow Up Under Care

Yu Guodeng, 15, felt his life has been back to normal for the first time since his father and mother died of AIDS. "When flowers and trees bathe in sunlight, they are full of vitality," he wrote.


As an AIDS-orphaned kid in Yingjiang County, southwest China's Yunnan Province, Yang, living with his elderly brother, dropped out of school after his mother's death in 2003. His father already died in 2000. He worked as a construction worker for 10-odd-yuan (US$1.25) a day. "I often worried that I would have no launch when having breakfast."


"I lost parents and have no chance to go to school, it's all darkness ahead of me," that's how he described his feelings then. But fortunately, with a program sponsored by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), he resumed junior high school years soon after.


With the program support, he gets 100 yuan (US$12.5) as living expense, 20 yuan (US$2.5) for medical care monthly and 320 yuan (US$40) as tuition for every school year. His life is turning back to normal.


In the small county bordering Myanmar, there are 123 AIDS-orphaned children like Yu. Many of their parents were infected through drug taking or unsafe sex, as the region is not far off "Golden Triangle", the world's second largest drug production base.


The kids, left behind, most live in homes of their grandparents or uncles or aunts.


Starting from 2003, UNICEF, together with local women's federation and Yunnan AIDS prevention and control office, initiated a program to offer care to these kids and support for the families that adopt them to ensure they live a life like other children.


With the support of UNICEF and local officials, Yu hoped he could enter a Beijing university and become a charitarian to help more people in the future.


But, social discrimination poses a psychological problem the kids have to face, said Xu Wenqing, UNICEF China AIDS program officer.


Zuo Pingsai, who was enrolled in the Yingjiang No.1 Middle School, best senior high school in Yingjiang, this year, was afraid to let her new schoolmates to know her parents died of the epidemic. "I'm afraid if they know, they'll bully me or not play or talk with me."


In order to help them relieve psychological pressure, local women's federation organizes get-together activities for them twice every month, in the forms of drawing, making handicraft or an outing, which are designed to help them rebuild self-confidence.


"Their life was in dismay and nobody wanted to talk with them, but the program enables more to care about them," said Yang Linzhen, a local women's federation official.


China had reported more than 120,000 HIV-infected cases by June, this year and over 7,000 died. As AIDS keeps spreading, the issue of AIDS-orphaned children will become more serious, "we need the whole society to work together," said Xu.


(Xinhua News Agency October 24, 2005)


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