Chinese villagers seek to banish HIV-infected boy

Authorities in a Chinese village have launched a "thought education" campaign after more than 200 villagers signed a petition to banish an eight-year-old boy infected with the HIV virus, state media said on Wednesday.

People in China living with HIV and AIDS face widespread discrimination and stigma, with even medical workers sometimes refusing to touch them. Although the government has implemented polices and legislation aimed at stopping HIV/AIDS discrimination, enduring misconceptions about the disease have led to children being barred from school and parents abandoning children.

Kun Kun, an eight-year-old boy from a village in the southwestern province of Sichuan contracted the virus from his mother, the People's Daily newspaper said on its website. After he was diagnosed with the virus in 2011, he was expelled from school and ostracized by villagers, with one of them calling him a "ticking time bomb", said the newspaper, the official paper of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

In early December, more than 200 villagers, including Kun Kun's guardian and grandfather, signed a petition to eject the boy from the village. "Nobody wants to play with me," the newspaper quoted Kun Kun as saying.

But in response to his treatment, the village mayor was quoted by the newspaper as saying Kun Kun enjoyed equal rights and "the township government will conduct ideological work on the villagers". UNAIDS estimates that China had 780,000 people infected with AIDS at the end of 2011.

In 2012, President Xi Jinping visited a group of people living with HIV in Beijing, urging society to end discrimination and "to light up their lives with love", state news agency Xinhua reported.