UNAIDS Executive Director, Yao Ming and Government launch campaign against discrimination in China

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UNAIDS Executive Director, Yao Ming and Government launch campaign against discrimination in China

27 November 2009

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From right: Mr Huang Jiefu, Vice Minister of Health on behalf of the Government of China, UNAIDS Executive Director Mr Michel Sidibé and civil society representative jointly launched the nationwide anti-stigma campaign. Beijing, 27 November 2009.
Credit: UNAIDS/Zhou Dao

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé and the Chinese Vice-Minister of Health, Huang Jiefu, launched a campaign in Beijing earlier today to address HIV-related stigma and discrimination. Chinese basketball star Yao Ming and a group of fans that include people living with HIV are the face of the campaign which features two videos and a poster.

Congratulating Mr Ming on his commitment to spread awareness about HIV, Mr Sidibé said, “It is an inspiration to have celebrity as famous as Yao Ming take a leadership role in addressing this issue. I hope others will follow his excellent example.”

It is an inspiration to have celebrity as famous as Yao Ming take a leadership role in addressing this issue. I hope others will follow his excellent example.

Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director

In the campaign, Yao Ming is encouraging people in China and all over the world to help change attitudes and stop stigma and discrimination, “Like all of us, my friends who are living with HIV should have the opportunity to live full and dignified lives.”

Members from organizations of people living with HIV and other partners were also part of the launch ceremony.

People living with HIV should not be forced to live in the shadows. This data collection project has clearly shown that people living with HIV need to be part of the response to AIDS. By working together we can make a big difference.

Yu Xuan who is HIV positive and a consultant for ‘Positive Talks’

The campaign responds to findings from a recently launched China Stigma Index report that measures stigma and discrimination experienced by people living with HIV in China. The report, the first of its kind in China, surveyed more than 2000 respondents living with HIV. The data are collected by people living with HIV themselves. The survey report is the result of efforts of networks of people living with HIV and other key stakeholders including the Institute of Social Development Research of the Chinese Central Party School, the Marie Stopes International project ‘Positive Talks’ and UNAIDS. The work is part of a global project to document AIDS-related discrimination.

“People living with HIV should not be forced to live in the shadows,” said Yu Xuan who is HIV positive and a consultant for ‘Positive Talks’. “This data collection project has clearly shown that people living with HIV need to be part of the response to AIDS. By working together we can make a big difference.”

The study shows that 42% of respondents reported having faced some type of HIV-related discrimination. It also showed that 12% of respondents said they had been refused medical care at least once since they tested positive.

Dr Jiefu commented, “China has always made anti-discrimination education an important part of its response to AIDS. The Chinese government is committed to continuing to work together with the international community, including UNAIDS, and to doing more to eliminate discrimination.”

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Mr Michel Sidibé, UNAIDS Executive Director presents the China Stigma Index Report at launch in Beijing, 27 November 2009.
Credit: UNAIDS/Zhou Dao

Many of the surveyed respondents said they had been refused antiretroviral treatment, refused family planning services and reproductive health services since being diagnosed HIV positive. 17% said they had been recommended by a health professional not to have children and some had been pressurised into undergoing sterilization by a healthcare professional. Some of the female respondents said they had been pressurised into terminating a pregnancy by medical staff or family planning department staff.
The China Stigma Index survey also found that one quarter of medical staff and more than one third of government officials and teachers develop more negative and discriminatory attitudes towards people living with HIV after learning of their HIV positive status.

A significant proportion of people living with HIV reported having lost their job, having been forced to leave school or move out of their home or even having found that their family members experienced discrimination in various forms, as a result of their HIV status.

China, together with India, Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia and Papua New Guinea, is home to 82% of people living with HIV in the Asia-Pacific region.

HIV remains a formidable challenge in China with several factors fuelling the epidemic, including shame, fear, stigma and discrimination; low awareness of HIV within the general population; rural poverty; mobility; availability and affordability of prostitution; a rapidly expanding community of men who have sex with men; and injecting drug use.