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HIV-Positive Couple Make History in China

August 5, 2003

Cao Xueliang, 37, and bride Wang Daiying, 34, allowed the press to cover their recent wedding in the town of Gongmin, in the southwestern province of Sichuan. It was the first time an HIV-positive couple wed publicly in China. Doctors and AIDS activists said the couple' openness would help fight discrimination and boost AIDS prevention in China, where the government estimates around 1 million HIV cases, although experts believe the true number is closer to 1.5 million.

"The new couple and the guests were very happy, like any other normal couple," said Xiao Wei, who attended the festivities. Xiao works with a Sino-British AIDS prevention project active in Gongmin. Some of the 200 guests at the wedding were HIV-positive. "Local villagers didn't mind sharing a meal with them," he noted.

All 67 of Gongmin's HIV cases contracted the infection through illegal blood selling in the central province of Henan in the early 1990s, the official China Daily said.

Wang contracted HIV from her former husband, He Yong, who accompanied Cao to Henan to sell their blood. He died in September 2002, leaving Wang and their daughter. Cao and Wang do not want to have children together.

Most HIV-positive patients in China are not open about their status, according to Han Ning, a doctor at Beijing's Ditan hospital. "If they could learn from the new couple to be open about their personal experiences, they would be better understood by the public," he said.

HIV-infected persons cannot legally get jobs in cities if they fail mandatory health tests. In certain parts of China, people with HIV cannot get married, activists say.

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Excerpted from:
08.04.03; Juliana Liu

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