China pledges help for eight-year-old boy with HIV

BEIJING – China has promised state support for an eight-year-old boy diagnosed as HIV-positive after villagers called for him to be banished, local media reported Monday.

Last week nearly a quarter of residents of Shufangya village, in central Sichuan province, signed a petition demanding he leave the village, state news agency Xinhua reported. The boy’s grandparents, who are his legal guardians, were among those who signed.

The state-run China Daily newspaper said the health ministry had pledged to provide medical care and a living allowance for the boy, known as Kun Kun in media reports, and the government has agreed to ensure his education following reports he was having difficulty finding a school.

Some villagers claimed the petition had been a way to draw attention to the boy’s plight, according to a Beijing Times report cited by the South China Morning Post.

Other reports quoted residents in the village of 900 people as saying it was the boy’s destructive nature that was behind the petition, claiming he had set a number of fires.

Kun Kun had been due to start school Monday but authorities in Xichong county advised his guardians to seek psychiatric counseling for the boy, the Beijing News said.

His grandparents, who are related to his adoptive father, believe finding another guardian for Kun Kun would be in his best interests.

He was diagnosed in 2011 when he went to hospital for treatment to an eye injury. Local authorities have reportedly said his mother is HIV-positive. She lost contact with her son four years ago after leaving the village and his adoptive father has also left. His natural father’s identity is unknown.

"Kun Kun is a time bomb," local He Jialing told Xinhua. "Our kid is about the same age as him and now we have him live in the boarding school. Kun Kun is too dangerous. What if he bites our son?"

The petition sparked an outcry in China and raised the issue of discrimination and lack of education surrounding people living with HIV/AIDS.

Xu Wenqing, a specialist with the UN Children's Fund, noted the lack knowledge about HIV/AIDS in China demonstrated by the case. “Kun Kun's story reminds us that more work is to be done," she said.

Xinhua reported there were 497,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in China at the end of October.

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