|UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Leon Lai visiting young residents of a rural village in Longling, located in south-west China’s Yunnan Province.|
By Dale Rutstein
BEIJING, China,11 February 2010 – Hong Kong pop star and UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador Leon Lai visited Longling County in south-west China’s Yunnan Province late last month, rallying support for Local Action for Rural Children, a programme aimed at strengthening community-based education and awareness of HIV and AIDS.
Since 1996, Mr. Lai has participated in field visits organized by UNICEF in support of its joint country programme with the Government of China. On his trip to Longling, he visited rural communities and talked with women and children benefiting from the programme. He also participated in HIV/AIDS public awareness campaigns by out-of-school youth groups.
“It is great to see how the people in these very remote villages are informing themselves about HIV/AIDS," said Mr. Lai. "The youth I met and talked with are sharing knowledge with their friends and families. They are also learning to show care and concern for those affected."
‘It is everyone’s concern’
Longling is one of the poorest counties in China and has a high HIV prevalence rate. In 2009, the number of HIV infections in there rose by 15 per cent over the preceding year. The main cause of the virus's spread in the county is sexual transmission – mainly by young migrant workers returning home from other parts of China.
"Leon's visit helps to convey the message that HIV/AIDS in China is not someone else's problem anymore. It is everyone's concern,” said UNICEF Deputy Representative in China David McLoughlin.
“HIV/AIDS is now spreading fastest through sexual transmission and equally among younger women and men," he added. "UNICEF is pleased that the Local Action for Rural Children project, implemented with local government partners, is reaching so many people in Longling County."
Improving access to basic services
Local Action for Rural Children focuses on reducing poverty through improved access to basic social services for the most vulnerable women and children in 20 of the poorest counties in China. The project has helped to accelerate progress by increasing the quality and uptake of health, education, water, sanitation and HIV/AIDS services.
In Longling County, the project has reached 60 per cent of out-of-school children in 18 villages with an educational presentation on 10 key facts about HIV/AIDS. In addition, more than 9,000 county residents have been trained at 83 community mobilization workshops in a sustained effort to reduce the transmission of HIV.