"There is great opportunity to control AIDS in China, for HIV has been recognized as a problem and demonstration of leadership at the highest level is very clear," Dr. Christian Voumard, UNICEF representative to China, said at a press conference in Beijing Wednesday.
"The particular challenge now is to mobilize leadership of all levels including provincial and local levels," Voumard said. "It is time to equip the next generation with knowledge and education to avoid the spread of HIV."
Sir Roger Moore, UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, had harsh words for about 40 local hotels and schools that refused to accommodate 72 AIDS orphans attending the country's first summer camp for children who lost their parents to AIDS, which opened in Beijing Tuesday.
"The schools, resting houses and hotels should hang their heads in shame who refused to take the 72 orphans, believing in some unfounded way that these children could infect other guests and children," Moore said.
He went on to express appreciation to the Badachu Xicui Hotel in suburban Beijing which arranged the orphans' accommodations.
Moore said he is confident with the program being sketched out with commitments by the government, including free medicare for AIDS patients in rural China.
He also encouraged the media to send the message to the public that "there should be no stigma or discrimination," and that "AIDS orphans should not lose their friends and jobs."
The AIDS orphan summer camp, jointly organized by the China Youth Concern Committee, the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention and UNICEF, commenced on Aug. 10 in Beijing.
"Despite being healthy, they were still refused by nearly 40 hotels and school dormitories in the past two months," said Li Qimin, an official with the summer camp organizing committee, adding that hotel owners feared that guests would move out after hearing that AIDS orphans were staying in the same hotel, while school administrators said students were not willing to leave their dormitories for AIDS orphans.
At last, the Badachu Xicui Hotel in a Beijing suburb agreed to take in all 72 AIDS orphans and arrange the best rooms for them.
According to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, China will have between 138,000 and 260,000 AIDS orphans by the end of 2010.
In spite of these grim statistics, Moore a British actor who rose to international fame playing secret agent James Bond, remains optimistic.
"This battle will be won," he said.
(Xinhua News Agency August 12, 2004)