Many Chinese seniors living with HIV face abandonment from their adult children
○ A WeChat group is proving popular among the adult offspring of HIV-infected parents who previously lived in secret shame
○ Many ordinary Chinese still have deep-rooted misunderstandings about HIV/AIDS, which makes it difficult for patients and their relatives to live in peace
Primary school students form a red ribbon with candles to promote AIDS awareness in Hohhot, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, on December 1, 2017. Photo: VCG
Cookie, a 25-year-old woman from Sichuan Province, closely followed her WeChat group even during an overseas holiday.
Having an HIV-positive mother in prison, Cookie relies heavily on WeChat to obtain news, updates and information about living with HIV-infected people, in preparation for her mother's release next year.
The group, named Wu Ai Wu Jia (Loving My Family), is for people with HIV-positive parents, allowing them to share knowledge, quell fears and misunderstandings, and draw courage from each other in their collective fight against AIDS/HIV.
The members of the group, currently numbering in the 40s, each have at least one parent infected with HIV. Living under this shadow, they all have gone through the initial shock and panic of their parents' illness, and have also come to terms with it. Now they are making efforts to tackle the situation by confronting the disease and Chinese society's misinformed stigma of it.
Prior to finding the WeChat group, it was a long, lonely process for these members, facing pressure from both society and their own parents. Cookie, upon first joining the group, used to ask questions like "Do you dine with your parents?" which she now regards as "naive." Such questions are typical for newcomers to the group who, even though slightly familiar with AIDS, still find it hard to accept as part of their daily life.
In Chinese society, AIDS and HIV remain a taboo that is seriously misunderstood by a large percentage of the population. With HIV-positive parents, some of the members have ended their marriage after revealing it to their spouse, while others keep it a secret from their loved ones.
There are also some who, finding it too hard to shoulder the responsibility and live on, relent to the disease and life itself. "We usually would scold and lecture him or her until they get awakened to the sense," said Sally whose parents are both HIV-positive.
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