While we've been so focused on the November elections, something truly remarkable happened in China over the weekend. More than 110 people participated in the first China AIDS Walk at the Jinshanling Great Wall in Beijing on Oct 13. "Nearly 48 fund raising teams has joined the program since May, with more than 150,000 yuan ($23,955) donated by 3,400 people," China Daily reported. In January, the paper reported that 28,000 people had died of AIDS in 2011, and another 48,000 people were HIV infected in the country, according to government statistics. Perhaps the country is re-thinking its penchant for secrecy around stigmatized issues - which makes the China AIDS Walk to raise awareness truly historic. The China Daily reported Monday:
Dawei (not his real name), who is infected with HIV, hugged the hikers and tourists at the end of the hiking route.
"I'm very glad to be a part of the event and moved that many tourists came to hug me. Life is tough and I don't know how I've come through thick and thin after so many years," said Dawei, with tears in his eyes. Dawei revealed himself as HIV-positive and gay in a media interview in 2005.
"The good the China AIDS Walk can do has no end, and I hope those who are discriminated against due to HIV/AIDS, can live peacefully with others," he said.
Wei Jian'gang, executive director of the Beijing Gender Health Education Institute, organized the event, in conjunction with the LA Gay & Lesbian Center. Wei is one of several graduates from the Center's unique Emerging Leaders Program that brings LGBT activists from China to L.A. for intensive leadership training and internships. Wei told the China Daily that the person who raised the most money through the China AIDS Walk before World AIDS Day on Dec 1 would travel to California to participate in the annual AIDS/Life Cycle next June.
"The core aim is to get families to accept their children, which will spread out to other situations. If you don't get your family to accept you, there is nowhere can you go," said Kim Lembo, logistics manger of AIDS/Life Cycle, told China Daily. "It's a very beautiful day. The AIDS walk in China shares many similarities with that in the States. The country is different but everyone is involved for the same reason."