Volunteers help Muslims in Xinjiang become more tolerant of HIV

Source: Xinhua [09:30 December 02 2011]

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Ayinuer, a 29-year-old Uygur, had no time for community volunteers intent on educating the public on HIV/AIDS seven years ago. In fact, she'd slam the door in their faces.

Ayinuer wasn't alone, as the disease was a taboo for the majority in the communities of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. People considered HIV carriers dirty.

Now Ayinuer is one of those volunteers, touring throughout the region, writing and performing plays and musicals based on actual HIV/AIDS patients' experiences to help raise awareness of the disease and remove its stigma.

She believes her efforts and those of her fellow volunteers have paid off, as people have started talking more openly about the disease, which in turn has decreased discrimination against those living with HIV/AIDS.

"We used to be threatened and sometimes assaulted when we went door-to-door to educate people," Ayinuer said. "But now people are talking about HIV more openly, and I've witnessed people moved to tears while watching our plays."

Ayinuer is one of 28 Red Cross volunteers in the region, but she never would have found herself here if the disease hadn't ravaged her own family.

In 2004 things seemed fine for Ayinuer. She had a husband who, despite a drug addiction, loved her, and a wonderful 7-month-old daughter. But then her husband found himself suffering constant fever and diarrhea.

"One afternoon he came home pale as a sheet and handed me a blood-test result. I couldn't move. He was HIV positive. I remember it like it happened yesterday," she said.

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