08/11/2004, 00.00
CHINA
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Schools and hotels turn away AIDS orphans

Beijing (AsiaNews /AFP) – Some Beijing schools and hotels turned away a group of 71 AIDS orphans who had come to the capital on a 5-day summer trip. According to state media the "move was discriminatory."

At least 40 schools, rest houses and hotels refused lodgings to children from Central China orphaned after their parents died of AIDS which they contracted in unsanitary blood centres selling their blood.

The children themselves are not infected but according to China Daily "schools are worried that their students would feel uncomfortable knowing that their dorms had been used by AIDS orphans, and hotels are worried that the special group might affect their other guests."

For the official government newspaper "these justifications are illogical and heartbreaking".

Xicui Hotel in Badachu, which is located in the western outskirts of Beijing far from the city centre, accepted the AIDS orphans. For many of them this is their first time in the capital. For some it is also a chance to find adoptive parents. They will visit the Great Wall, the Forbidden City as well as a science museum where they will have the chance of meeting China's first astronaut Yang Liwei.

The regrettable incident shows how deep prejudice is in China towards AIDS and people living with the disease. In a recent survey only 8.7% of respondents acknowledged knowing how the disease spreads. In another survey by Future Group Europe and Beijing-based Horizon Research Group one rural resident in four acknowledged never even having heard of the virus. Only one urban resident in three and less than one rural resident in five believe that HIV carriers should be allowed to work along side others. The same survey found that very few people care for or accept HIV patients or people living with Aids.

Officially, there are 840,000 AIDS cases in China, but international experts believe that the real number is much higher. The United Nations and UNAIDS warn that if China does not take more effective steps there could as many as 10 million AIDS patients and 260,000 AIDS orphans in the country by 2010. (DS)

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