NGO to make short film on chil­dren of HIV-pos­i­tive peo­ple

China Daily (Canada) - - LIFE - By XULIN xulin@chi­

Hong Kong-based Chi Heng Foun­da­tion will make a short film, ti­tled Love, on chil­dren of HIV-pos­i­tive peo­ple.

The film’s shoot­ing will start in­March in the vil­lages of He­nan, An­hui and Yun­nan provinces and will be up­loaded on­line in­May.

It is based on real-life sto­ries of chil­dren whose par­ents are or were in­fected by the virus and shows the dif­fi­cul­ties they face while grow­ing up. A few mem­bers of the pro­duc­tion team are also those with HIV-pos­i­tive par­ents.

“It is touch­ing to see that such chil­dren are will­ing to tell their sto­ries to raise pub­lic aware­ness about the virus. I hope there will be more pro­duc­tions of such na­ture,” says To Chung, founder and chair­man of ChiHeng Foun­da­tion.

TheNGOhas helped more than 19,000 stu­dents from HIV/AIDS fam­i­lies in 10 provinces in China since 2002. Less than 4 per­cent of such stu­dents are in­fected by the virus.

“The film’s theme is hope. It aims to en­cour­age vul­ner­a­ble groups to be strong and in­de­pen­dent and calls on the pub­lic to be more in­clu­sive (so­cially),” To says.

Hong Kong film di­rec­tor Stan­ley Kwan, who vol­un­teers with the NGO, will join the short film as well.

To fur­ther its work among HIV-pos­i­tive peo­ple, the NGO aims to col­lect 100,000 yuan ($15,400) on the crowd­fund­ing plat­form of on­line re­tailer JD by April 28.

Those who do­nate money can get items such as the film’s posters and DVDs, and paint­ings by chil­dren of HIV-pos­i­tive par­ents.

Even though many chil­dren are them­selves not in­fected with the virus, they suf­fer from dis­crim­i­na­tion at the hands of friends, neigh­bors and rel­a­tives be­cause they come from fam­i­lies where the dis­ease was de­tected, says Wei Jun, 28, di­rec­tor of the short film.

“I want to do some­thing to change that sit­u­a­tion,” says Wei, who started to vol­un­teer for the NGO in 2008.

Wei says the film will spot­light the strug­gles of a 10-year-old boy whose par­ents died of AIDS and whose un­cle al­lowed him to sleep only in a pigsty for fear of “in­fect­ing” the rest of the fam­ily.

When the HIV-pos­i­tive boy grew up and went to col­lege, he felt awk­ward when fel­low stu­dents asked him why he took daily med­i­ca­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to China’s Cen­ter for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion, by the end of Oc­to­ber 2015, there were 575,000 HIV/AIDS peo­ple in the coun­try. Some 177,000 have died of the dis­ease so far.

In the 1990s, tens of thou­sands of im­pov­er­ished farm­ers from places such as He­nan made a liv­ing by sell­ing blood il­le­gally. Many were in­fected with the virus be­cause of safety prob­lems.

The NGO, founded in 1998, funds the education and liv­ing ex­penses of young peo­ple with at least oneHIV­pos­i­tive par­ent or par­ents who have died of AIDS, and also of­fers coun­sel­ing pro­grams and vo­ca­tional train­ing to them.

“I hope education changes their des­tiny and they can be op­ti­mistic about life and in­te­grate into so­ci­ety. They shouldn’t feel ashamed or in­fe­rior be­cause of the dis­ease in their fam­i­lies,” To says.

It’s not easy to find a spouse when such chil­dren reach a mar­riage­able age be­cause it takes a long time to fight so­cial stigma.

“Most such young peo­ple are healthy, but their par­ents are HIV-pos­i­tive. Even if a boyfriend or girl­friend ac­cepts that, their fam­i­lies are likely to op­pose a mar­riage,” he says.

The NGO started to of­fer match­mak­ing ser­vices in re­cent years and 26 in­fected cou­ples were mar­ried.

With med­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion to block mother-to-in­fant trans­mis­sion of the virus, 16 fe­males have given birth to healthy ba­bies.

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