Last year, while undergoing routine medical tests prior to breast cancer surgery, Mrs. Zeng found out that she was HIV-positive.
The diagnosis was not only devastating news, but it also meant a disruption to her breast cancer treatment at a public hospital in Taishan, Guangdong.
This is typical in China: many hospitals routinely turn people away if they are living with HIV.
Determined not to give up, Mrs. Zeng sought treatment in several other hospitals before she finally found help at Guangzhou No. 8 Hospital — and its pioneering Red Ribbon Center.
The organization I lead, AIDS Care China, works alongside government agencies and healthcare providers to raise awareness and fight discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS. We also work to raise awareness with the general population, as pictured above.
I started this organization in 2001, when I experienced first-hand how the stigma related to HIV/AIDS affected every aspect of my life. Since then, I’ve made it my job to make sure that no one in China experiences fear, isolation and inhumane treatment simply because of their HIV status.
Part of what we do includes setting up Red Ribbon Centers at or near hospitals where people like Mrs. Zeng can have safe spaces to talk about their health, learn the facts about HIV/AIDS, and obtain access to quality treatment.
Since 2001, we’ve opened thirty Red Ribbon Centers within hospitals in Guangdong, Guangxi, Hubei and Yunnan provinces. AIDS Care China has also worked with the Chinese government to improve the health and human rights of people living with HIV/AIDS.
Support from the Levi Strauss Foundation helps our volunteers reach 30,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in China every year. Last year, the Red Ribbon Center in Guangzhou No. 8 Hospital alone served more than 4,000 people living with HIV/AIDS — representing half of all people living with HIV/AIDS undergoing treatment in Guangzhou city.
In 2011, the foundation connected us to Levi Strauss & Co. to deliver company-sponsored employee trainings in its offices in China and Hong Kong.
We’re thankful to the Levi Strauss Foundation for supporting our mission to build strong communities of support and action for those most affected by HIV/AIDS in China — from children orphaned by HIV/AIDS to migrant factory workers. These communities are now better equipped to work with doctors and nurses who offer can quality prevention and treatment care, free of stigma and discrimination. This work is key to ending the epidemic.
As for Mrs. Zeng, coming to the Red Ribbon Center meant immediate access to HIV treatment, in addition to psychological support for all the sudden and daunting changes in her life. Her health has stabilized, and she’s looking forward to the next chapter in her life.