Last updated at: (Beijing Time) Sunday, December 01, 2002
China's Millions Learn AIDS Prevention from TV
Despite the epidemic spreading rapidly across the world's most populous nation, most people in China still have a poor understanding of HIV/AIDS, particularly in the vast rural areas, according to Chinese health officials.
Zhang Guiyun, an old rural lady in Beijing's northern outskirts, used to think that Ai Zi Bing, as the Chinese call AIDS, was just a problem for foreigners.
But after watching a series of short TV documentaries publicizing HIV/AIDS information on Saturday, 60-year-old Zhang has realized how close the disease has come to her and her neighbors in the countryside.
"China's already got one million people infected with the disease?" Zhang, sitting in a meeting hall packed with some 1,000 people, sounded astonished at what the TV program had just revealed. "I'd heard about it before. But I thought it was a foreigners' problem and had nothing to do with us Chinese."
And she is not alone. Despite the epidemic spreading rapidly across the world's most populous nation, most people in China still have a poor understanding of HIV/AIDS, particularly in the vast rural areas, according to Chinese health officials.
AIDs prevention knowledge
"Rural areas are much more seriously plagued by HIV/AIDS. But rural residents' knowledge about the disease remains poor," said Ma Xiaowei, vice minister of health, who watched the TV program with Zhang and others in Xiangtang Village.
He said public ignorance poses a major challenge to the whole country's battle against HIV/AIDS, which is widely regarded as becoming a crucial issue.
"We must continue to strengthen the publicity work," he said.
Televised educational programs is part of intensive efforts nationwide to spread information as this year's World AIDS Day is marked on Sunday.
The 12-episode TV series, a combination of documentary films and computer animation, shows the public how AIDS virus spreads, how to use condoms to prevent infection, and appropriate attitudes to show towards people suffering from HIV/AIDS.
It was produced with the guidance of some leading experts from a national AIDS center under the Chinese Center for Disease Prevention and Control.
After the premiere in Xiangtang, a highly symbolic event to raise awareness among rural people, the telefilm will screen nationwide via two national broadcasters, China Central Television and China Education Television.
The total number of viewers may eventually reach 600 million, almost half China's population, as the program is then screened by around 1,000 local TV stations.
And the results? Based on Zhang Guiyun's reaction, they should be fairly satisfactory.
"I used to worry I might get infected by eating at the same table with others or using public phones. But the TV says that won't happen," said Zhang.
"Anyway, I don't think I'm at risk of infection, because I will never do those kind of things," she added, embarrassed by "those kind of things" mentioned in the telefilm - unprotected extra-marital sex and the sharing of needles among drug users.
But another part of her response proved broadcasting a TV program won't change public attitudes to HIV/AIDS issues overnight.
Asked how she would react if an AIDS patient lived right next door, Zhang hesitated briefly then said she might feel pressured.
"I'm still afraid of being infected," she replied.
However, Dr. Zeng Yi from the national AIDS center argued that China's HIV/AIDS situation is not as gloomy as some international critics had forecast, as long as governments at all levels pay enough attention to prevention and the public are intensively educated.
"In fact, China is taking more and more steps to address the problems," he said.