Red Ribbon school fights HIV, kids' access to education
Huang Yichang, Zhang Wanbao
Although HIV has been around for almost 40 years and is now regarded as a chronic disease, it still strikes fear in the hearts of many Chinese. The stigma associated with those three letters is so deep that the virus not only damages the immune system but also the prospects of its young bearers to get an education.
In Linfen, a city in China's Shanxi Province known for its wheat and cotton production, is the Linfen Red Ribbon school. Today, it stands as one of the few schools in China that specializes in teaching kids living with HIV.
The school's founder and current principal, Guo Xiaoping, realized the harsh reality facing these children while still serving as a director at a local hospital.
“The health guidance states that there's little chance of infection through normal daily contact. But for the parents, even there's 1 in 10,000 or 1 in a million chance of infection, they wouldn't be willing,” Guo said.
While still a director at the hospital at the time, he began setting up a makeshift classroom in the corridors staffed by volunteer doctors and nurses.
Since then, the project has gained not only the attention of local government but also of Chinese media. Guo's school now has 30 students on a 60,000 square-meter campus.
“When there's no fear, there's no discrimination. When these children can attend the same school as the others, schools like ours becomes unnecessary,” Guo said, “I hope people can understand AIDS accurately and have no fear.”