|© China News Service Guanxi/2006|
|Through images and words, the travelling photo exhibition ‘We Are Together’ tells the stories of people affected by AIDS.|
By Zhang Lei
NANNING, China, 21 August 2006 – A photo exhibition in China is tackling stigma and discrimination by putting a face on the AIDS pandemic.
Entitled ‘We Are Together’, the travelling exhibition is being presented by UNICEF, China’s Ministry of Health, ActionAid International and Mangrove, an organization of people living with AIDS.
The exhibit uses the stories of individuals and families living with HIV and AIDS to reflect their real-life situations and reduce fear and discrimination. It also aims to educate the general public on how – with government policy in place and support from all sectors of society – people living with AIDS can lead dignified and productive lives.
Problems and solutions
A number of stories about children and AIDS have been contributed to the exhibition from areas where UNICEF works with the Government of China on prevention of HIV transmission generally, prevention of mother-to-child transmission in particular, paediatric treatment and care for children affected by AIDS.
The stories address different aspects of how children are affected by AIDS, and they inform the public about possible solutions.
At each stop made by the traveling exhibition, local volunteers are recruited and trained to tell the stories in the exhibition and disseminate information and knowledge about AIDS.
One boy’s story
One of the many stories told in the exhibit is of Xiaolong (not his real name), a young boy orphaned by AIDS. After his parents died, Xiaolong began living with his 70-year-old grandmother, whose only income came from recycling garbage.
The money wasn’t enough to pay for school, and Xiaolong missed many classes. He was on the verge of dropping out altogether. Adding to this burden was the discrimination he faced from his fellow villagers, who didn’t have much knowledge about AIDS.
But with support from UNICEF, the villagers received education on HIV/AIDS and took part in anti-discrimination activities at Xiaolong's school. He also had a chance to participate in the psychosocial support activities. The discrimination gradually dissipated, and some of the villagers even took time to tutor Xiaolong on the classes he missed.
With renewed support from teachers and classmates, Xiaolong regained his confidence and became outgoing again. He made new friends and started getting better grades. Last year he was nominated as outstanding student at the school.