Govt vows to help more of nation's discriminated-against AIDS kids

13:05, June 01, 2011      

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The government has announced plans to increase its support of children affected by HIV/AIDS at the same time as studies suggest the disease had orphaned between 20,000 and 27,000 children by the end of 2010.

The number of children affected by HIV/AIDS on the mainland has been estimated at between 496,000 and 894,000.

The numbers were included in the report Child Welfare in China - Stocktaking Report 2011 released by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and Beijing Normal University on Tuesday.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs will gradually extend its support of children affected by HIV/AIDS, those who have been impacted by serious or rare diseases or who are living with physical disabilities, said Li Liguo, the minister of civil affairs.

Li made the remarks during a visit to an orphanage in Jinan, the capital of Shandong province, on Sunday.

Civil affairs departments are currently required to offer monthly subsidies to the country's 71,200 orphans under the age of 18.

Starting from January, orphans living in orphanages will be able to receive 1,000 yuan ($154) each month from local civil affairs departments. Meanwhile, those living with relatives or who are not being cared for at children's welfare centers will receive a monthly subsidy of 600 yuan.

Wang Zhenyao, director of the One Foundation Philanthropy Research Institute at Beijing Normal University, said the move takes China a step closer to a more inclusive welfare system.

Children affected by HIV/AIDS, no matter whether they are infected with the virus or their parents are patients, are usually vulnerable to poverty, said Wang.

However, children affected by HIV/AIDS face additional challenges on top of poverty, said Xia Jing, project officer at Marie Stopes International China, a non-government organization that provides sexual and reproductive healthcare.

"Due to people's limited understanding of the disease in China, children affected by HIV/AIDS receive a great deal of discrimination in their lives," Xia told China Daily.

"As far as I know, many schools still refuse to take in these children because of their fears about the disease."

Because of the associated stigma and discrimination, many children and families are reluctant to reveal their HIV status and access the government's social assistance, said Zhang Lei, an HIV/AIDS specialist at UNICEF's Beijing office.

"We need to continue to work to reduce HIV-related stigma and, at the same time, take an HIV-sensitive, not HIV-exclusive, approach to social assistance for children," Zhang said in an e-mail interview.

Source:China Daily
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