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Feature: Living with AIDS (3)

(Xinhua)

19:54, November 30, 2011

RENEWING VIGOR FOR LIFE

"Most infected people want to shut other people out, so I've been sharing my own story with them, hoping they can identify with me and stop feeling like they've been shunned," Zhang said.

Zhang regained her own confidence and found a new purpose in life and love after starting her work at the NGO.

"I get a sense of fulfillment and self-worth doing what I do. I even met my new husband, another HIV carrier. We got married in early 2010," she said.

Zhang now resides with her new husband and her 11-year-old son in Ruili, living just next door to her parents-in-law from her first marriage.

"The parents of my late husband have been very supportive in my treatment, my work at the Red Ribbon and now my new marriage," Zhang said. "I am really grateful to have such a supportive family."

It took a long time for Zhang to come to terms with her illness and regain her desire to live, especially in a place where discrimination against HIV/AIDS is rampant.

In the border province of Yunnan, social stigma against HIV/AIDS is still widespread, as most of the previous sufferers of the disease were drug addicts and prostitutes.

"It was scary to be out there, organizing activities for the affected population and risk being exposed, but I overcame my fear," Zhang said.

Zhang's neighbors, with the exception of her parents-in-law, still don't know she is a carrier.

"It's not like knowing my status would help my neighbors in any way, so why burden them?" Zhang said.


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