Five years ago, Wenlou village became China's famous "AIDS village". But things have changed now...
Before 1995, some work units in a few poverty-stricken villages set up blood plasma-collecting stations without authorization to engage in illegal collection of raw blood plasma. Their operation against regulations had resulted in cross infection, making Wenlou Village a "severely afflicted area" for the spread of AIDS through blood. Statistics show that there were 1,427 paid blood suppliers in the village, 431 people were diagnosed as infected by HIV, 52 of whom had died. Now, 379 people are infected by HIV, 337 of them are attacked by the disease, 303 households are involved, accounting for 32.7 percent of the total households in the village.
In 2003, Shangcai County, where Wenlou Village is located, was listed as one of the country's first group of 51 AIDS comprehensive prevention and treatment demonstration areas. That same year, Henan Province sent out work teams to help and stations in 38 key villages, in which Wenlou Village was listed as the most seriously affected area.
Death rate approaches a normal level
In the vegetable field at the entrance to Wenlou Village, a woman was hoeing up weeds.
"What vegetables are planted here?" The reporter asked. "Garlic, ginger, cabbage, etc." answered the woman. "Are the vegetables grown for your own family?" asked the reporter. "No, we can't eat so many, I go to the county seat by bike every day to sell part of them," answered the woman with a smile.
According to Wenlou Village Party branch secretary Liu Yuemei, the woman, surnamed Zhang, 53, is an AIDS patient. In March last year, she began to contract the disease, continuously running a low fever, so she had to receive liquid transfusion everyday. Unable to drink or eat, she was at the gate of death and her family had prepared a tomb for her. Later, she was asked by the doctor to persist in taking antiviral medicine. After a period of time, she made a miraculous recovery. To date, she can work in the vegetable field for three to four hours per day, no one can see that she is an AIDS patient.
Work team leader Wang Peiren from the Health Department of Henan Province to Wenlou Village said: although Wenlou Village presently is still in the high incidence of AIDS, the mortality rate, however, has approached a normal level.
The clinic, with a construction area of over 800 square meters, is one of the most beautiful structures in Wenlou Village. It possesses a B ultra-sonic machine, an X-ray machine, an electrocardiography (ECG) machine and other equipment, and 40 sickbeds. At present, all AIDS patients can get free medical treatment.
AIDS-hit women give birth to healthy babies
In the dusk, this reporter entered villager Caixia's home. A two-year-old baby boy was riding a bassinet, happily chasing after chickens and ducks.
Caixia and her husbands were both AIDS patients and the boy riding the bassinet is their son who doesn't carry HIV.
In the spring of 2002, Caixia became pregnant. Should she give birth to it? She was longing for a child, but she was worried that her child be infected with AIDS. She learned that there is mother-baby blocking therapy in Shangcai County People's Hospital, so she was determined to take the therapy and deliver the baby out.
After medicine treatment during the pregnancy and lying-in period, the first check given to the baby after its birth shows the AIDS virus positive, the check given to him after nine months shows the virus remained positive. After doing the final check 18 months later, the doctor told her that the check shows the virus being negative, so the blocking therapy proved successful.
Since October 2001, Shangcai County has checked 13,158 confined women in the hospital, 94 of whom with positive AIDS virus were all treated by medicine blocking. At present, 28 18-month-old babies are given blocking treatment, of whom 27 had negative HIV proved through check, thus effectively containing the spread of AIDS to the second generation. After conducting inspection, an official with the UNICEF (United Nations Children's Fund) held that Shangcai County's mother-baby blocking work is advancing in the van of 13 global pilot areas.
"Sunshine home" set up in every town
12-year-old Jiajia and her brother are orphans in Wenlou Village. Her parents died of AIDS three years ago, her grandpa is a paralytic and her grandma troubled by sickness, unable to bring up their grandchildren, so the brother and sister came to the "Sunshine home" in Lugang Town in September 2003.
"Can you eat well here?" the reporter asked. "We have better varied meals here than at home everyday, and we can eat freely to our fill", said Jiajia.
Talking about the most joyful thing, Jiajia recalled the scene of wrapping dumplings (with meat and vegetable stuffing) together with Premier Wen Jiabao on the lunar New Year's Eve of 2004. She said that the Premier was very cordial to them, asking after their life, health and needs. That night, it was snowing heavily, but it was warm inside the "Sunshine home".
There is a "Sunshine home" in every township of Shangcai County, which mainly adopts orphans and single senior citizens. The larger "Sunshine home" in Lugang Township has a teaching building, a reading room, dormitory, dining hall, playground, etc. The government provides a monthly allowance of 160 yuan to each orphan and senior citizen. Not long ago, Wenlou Village again built a "Red Ribbon Home" for the adoption of orphans at or below grade 4 of primary school pupils.
AIDS patient families rekindle hopes of life
In Wenlou Village, this reporter encountered a work team in the village, which "was counting the number of pigs" from house to house. It turned out that this is a measure taken by the government to encourage AIDS-affected families to develop a courtyard economy. So long as such families each raise 20 pigs and have five pigsties, they can each enjoy a small amount of loans provided by the government, to be used in expanding pig-raising scale.
When a 38-year-old villager surnamed Cheng saw this reporter, he immediately showed the reporter around the newly built pigsty and the methane tank, saying: "Look! Pig dung become methane which, in turn, are used for cooking meals, it is really miraculous!"
His father, wife and he himself are AIDS patients, he got the disease in September 2003, through antiviral treatment, his illness has gradually turned for the better. However, for the treatment of disease, his family has run into debt amounting to over 5,000 yuan. The work team in the village provided him with a startup fund of 800 yuan, and he himself borrowed 300 yuan with which he bought three piglets. One year later, the number of butchered pigs came to 16, reaping a net profit of over 2,500 yuan.
The development of a courtyard economy has enabled many AIDS-affected families to rekindle hopes of life. When the reporter walked out of Wenlou Village, he saw several villagers working in the wheat fields. At sunset, a heart-stirring strength appeared in their backs.
This article by Bai Jianfeng of People's Daily Overseas Edition is carried on page 4 of the newspaper, Nov. 3 and translated by People's Daily Online