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People's Daily Online>>China Society

Mountain retreat for AIDS orphans

(Xinhua)

09:57, November 28, 2011

THE new year has arrived for the ethnic Yi minority, and Mahaigguo has been busy drying corn in the sun in front of her adobe hut in a mountain village in southwestern Sichuan Province.

Corn is the only food available for Mahaigguo and her seven-year-old grandson Qubiamu during the festivities.

The Liangshan Yi Autonomous Prefecture features the largest settlement of Yi people in China and local people have lived in the shadow of HIV/AIDS since the mid 1990s. Then, many young adults moved to cities and some subsequently got infected with HIV through intravenous drug abuse.

When Qubiamu was five months old, his mother divorced his father, a drug addict. He died from AIDS two years later. Qubiamu's mother later succumbed to the disease, also because of drug addiction. "I hate drugs which had claimed my son's life and harmed many people," Mahaigguo said.

The first HIV-positive case was found in 1995 in the prefecture and a total of 21,565 HIV carriers had been reported in Liangshan as of the end of 2010.

It is estimated there are about 5,910 AIDS orphans in the prefecture. Although they face many challenges, there are a few who have enjoyed some relief through the caring of volunteers and non-governmental organizations.

A class for AIDS orphans, established in 2006 by a women and children development center at the Sikai Township School in Zhaojue County, began receiving funding in 2009 from the China Red Ribbon Foundation.

Shamayi, a 16-year-old Yi girl, is one of the 14 AIDS orphans in the class.

"I am so lucky to get a chance to go to school, as my younger brother and sister are still helping my grandma with farm work in our village," Shamayi said.

She has no memory of her parents, who died when she was very young.

Bumpy and long mountain roads have separated many ethnic Yi people from the rest of the world. They rarely elect to leave home to see a doctor, only undertaking the journey if their illnesses are serious enough.

"It is hard to estimate how many AIDS orphans are in mountainous villages in Liangshan," said Yang Hongbin, a Zhaojue County hospital official.

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