In theory, Bai says, most people living with HIV in China can have a life easier than that of those with diabetes.
"With a few tablets a day, they don't have to worry about their diets or taking much exercise, they can just lead a normal life," Bai says. "It is entirely possible that someone you know who looks completely healthy is in fact living with HIV."
However, the doctor admits that most people living with HIV/AIDS can't have a normal life.
Back in the 1990s when there was no effective or affordable treatment for AIDS and the disease was completely hushed-off from society, the shadow was so heavy that it was hard for people living with HIV/AIDS to "find a light in their lives", says Bei Fang.
"People usually associate those living with HIV as sinners rather than patients," Bei says. "I am glad to see the shadow getting thinner over the past decade."
Doctor Xu Lianzhi from Beijing You'an Hospital is one of the first to step into their lives and light a torch over their heads to dispel the shadow.
A pioneer in treating HIV/AIDS in China, Xu would offer her time and listening ears to her patients. As the patients gathered regularly at her home, the "Home of Love" was born.
A self-supportive group mainly consisting of HIV/AIDS patients, "Home of Love" was previously "Noah the Ark" for people living with HIV/AIDS in Beijing where they could openly discuss their problems, find commiseration and solace from each other. HIV patients found the courage, support and confidence as they ventured back into society.
Hundreds of similar centers have mushroomed across the country. Members of such groups are no longer limited to people living with HIV/AIDS, but also healthy volunteers.
Xiao Dong, the prototype of Li Ming in the drama, is one of them. The founder and head of a volunteer team engaged in AIDS prevention among homosexuals, Xiao is in reality a healthy 32-year-old gay man.
A former TV producer and a ringleader of an online gay community, Xiao has been deeply concerned about the high-risk behaviors among the gay population.
In recent years, men who have sex with men have become the most at risk of HIV/AIDS, and infection rates are rising, according to reports from the National Center for Disease Prevention and Control (CDC).
Three years ago, at the encouragement of Shi Wei, who was then the head of CDC in Chaoyang District, Beijing, Xiao founded a gay volunteer team to carry out intervention among the otherwise hard-to-reach gay community in Beijing.
Over the past three years, Xiao and his members visited almost every place in Beijing where gay men were believed to gather, such as bars, saunas and parks.
He would give lectures on AIDS prevention, distribute condoms and encourage them to have free voluntary counseling and testing.
"We're racing against time to let more gay and bisexual men know the importance of safe sex," Xiao says.
Dr Bai spent a weekend last month at a Beijing hotel for a forum on prevention of HIV/AIDS. He says he believes society would open up more.
"If I were a diabetes expert and it happened that I myself also suffered from the problem, I would not hesitate to reveal my health condition," Bai says. "But I have to consider what my statement could bring to my family.
"It is not that I am not courageous enough, rather the society is not yet ready for such an open revelation.
"But I can see it is coming."
(China Daily December 1, 2008)