Re­mov­ing the stigma of HIV/AIDS

Doc­tor CaiWeip­ing, who has treated an es­ti­mated 20,000 pa­tients, aims to dis­pelmyths about the virus

China Daily (USA) - - CHINA - By LIWENFANG and ZHENG CAIXIONG in Guangzhou Con­tact the writ­ers at zheng­caix­iong@chi­

Though many on the Chi­nese main­land might balk at the thought of it, Cai Weip­ing pub­licly ac­knowl­edges that he has hun­dreds of friends who are HIV-pos­i­tive or have AIDS.

Cai is direc­tor of the in­fec­tious dis­eases depart­ment at Guangzhou No 8Peo­ple’sHospi­tal, a des­ig­nated hos­pi­tal to treat AIDS and other in­fec­tious dis­eases in the cap­i­tal of Guang­dong province.

He is so ded­i­cated to his role that he of­ten gives his per­sonal mo­bile phone num­ber to pa­tients so they can con­tact him af­ter hours.

“Now many AIDS friends reg­u­larly call me or con­tact me via WeChat and email to talk about the con­di­tion and other life is­sues,” Cai said.

Last year, a young HIV-pos­i­tive man even brought his girl­friend and her par­ents to meet Cai, so that they might bet­ter un­der­stand the ill­ness.

The pa­tient, who be­came in­fected when he was given a con­tam­i­nated blood trans­fu­sion af­ter a traf­fic ac­ci­dent, asked the doc­tor to help ex­plain to his would-be par­ents-in-law that their daugh­ter would not nec­es­sar­ily con­tract the ill­ness if proper pre­ven­tive mea­sures were taken.

Cai and his wife reg­u­larly eat din­ner with HIV-pos­i­tive pa­tients to dis­pel myths about the way the virus is spread and of­fer en­cour­age­ment to the pa­tients and their fam­i­lies.

He said this had helped to re­build fa­mil­ial bonds in the past, show­ing par­ents that there was no rea­son to fear their chil­dren liv­ing with the in­fec­tion.

The 55-year-old doc­tor es­ti­mates that he has treated more than 20,000 HIV/AIDS pa­tients since he started work­ing in the field in 1998.

“HIV is dread­ful, but dis­crim­i­na­tion is even more dread­ful,” he said.

In ad­di­tion to dis­crim­i­na­tion from their fam­i­lies, friends and col­leagues, many peo­ple who are HIV­pos­i­tive in Guang­dong are also given the cold shoul­der by hos­pi­tals and doc­tors, ac­cord­ing to Cai.

He said such pa­tients will of­ten be trans­ferred to his hos­pi­tal as soon as the at­tend­ing physi­cian learns of the in­fec­tion, as these doc­tors of­ten claim their hos­pi­tals are not equipped to deal with HIV/ AIDS.

“The hep­ati­tis virus is ac­tu­ally more in­fec­tious than HIV, as it can be trans­mit­ted through more chan­nels than HIV, which is spread pri­mar­ily by un­pro­tected sex, con­tam­i­nated blood trans­fu­sions and mother-to-child trans­mis­sion,” said Cai, adding that all hos­pi­tals that can han­dle hep­ati­tis pa­tients are ca­pa­ble of treat­ing peo­ple with HIV/AIDS.

To bet­ter serve pa­tients, Cai’s hos­pi­tal has now built a ded­i­cated de­liv­ery room and op­er­at­ing theater where HIV-pos­i­tive women can give birth or un­dergo other sur­gi­cal op­er­a­tions.

He has also drawnupa list of “red sur­geons” who have agreed to help per­form op­er­a­tions on HIV-pos­i­tive and AIDS pa­tients, be­cause few doc­tors wish to be pub­licly as­so­ci­ated with car­ing for them.

Ac­cord­ing to Cai, about 30-40 HIV-pos­i­tive women give birth via Cae­sarean sec­tion in his hos­pi­tal ev­ery year.

Cai al­ways en­cour­ages his pa­tients to date, marry and even give birth, be­cause an HIV-pos­i­tive hus­band can have a healthy child with a wife who is not in­fected, for ex­am­ple.

“The wives can be­come preg­nant and de­liver a healthy baby via ar­ti­fi­cial in­sem­i­na­tion af­ter the viruses in the sem­i­nal fluid are killed,” Cai said.

Xiao Hua (as­sumed name), one of Cai’s pa­tients, de­scribed the doc­tor as “lov­ing” with “su­pe­rior skills”.

“Cai al­ways works very care­fully and usu­ally be­comes a friend of his patents af­ter he sees them,” she said.

UK char­ity Barry and Martin’s Trust pre­sented its epony­mous prize to Cai in 2012 for his work in HIV/AIDSpre­ven­tion and care. The trust, which sup­ports hos­pi­tals treat­ing HIV/AIDS pa­tients through­out China, cre­ated the an­nual prize for ex­cel­lence in AIDS ed­u­ca­tion, preven­tion and care in 2000.

Cai Weip­ing at Guangzhou No 8 Peo­ple’s Hos­pi­tal.

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