|© UNICEF/HQ06-0126/Li Mingfang|
|Actor and China’s first HIV/AIDS Ambassador Pu Cunxin will participate in an Olympic Games events designed to draw attention to the plight of children affected by AIDS.|
NEW YORK, 6 August 2008 – As the eyes of the world turn towards China for the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games, UNICEF is taking the opportunity to focus attention on one of the country’s most marginalized groups – children affected by AIDS.
On 9 August more than 80 children affected by AIDS will be greeted by Olympic athletes and high-level government officials in the Great Hall of the People. The children are from seven provinces and have either lost parents to AIDS, or live with parents who are infected.
The meeting is part of a series of events that will also feature actor and first UNICEF China AIDS Ambassador Pu Cunxin and gymnast Lou Yun, who won Olympic gold in 1984.
‘A very strong signal’
“I think it will send a very strong signal,” said UNICEF Representative in China Yin Yin Nwe. “There are all these vulnerable children out there and people shouldn’t forget.”
Nearly 21 million children are orphans in China, although there are no statistics showing how many of them are orphaned by AIDS.
Ms. Nwe says the Olympic meeting, which will draw worldwide attention, is a significant step towards ending the stigmatization that many affected by AIDS in China still suffer.
A big advance
“It’s a big advance. As recently as 2004, when we had our first summer camp for children affected by AIDS, the children were not accepted by any of the hotels in Beijing,” she said.
It wasn’t until UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Roger Moore, who was guest of honour at the camp, intervened that the children were able to find a place to stay.
Even though the government has made it illegal to discriminate against those affected by AIDS, societal attitudes are more difficult – and slow – to change.
“It’s incremental,” Ms. Nwe said. “I don’t see that it’ll change things overnight, but over the years it gradually changes. And if people only get a small part of our message that’s better than getting no message. So I’m hopeful.”