An Anhui AIDS Village
(China Youth Daily) Visiting an AIDS Village in Northern Anhui. By Chen Jian (陈剑). December 1, 2005.
1. The Sorrows of a "Blood Head"
55-year-old Lu Jingxian sat by his lonesome self on the side of the bed, chewing on the dried bun like an expectant mountain goat bleating away. In the early 1990's, he was a "blood head (血头)" in Luliu village, Lixin county, Anhui province. "When the telephone call came from the county, I would ask all the residents in the village to go by car together to the blood station (to sell blood)." He said that people made more than 40 yuan each time. "They had to have 10 yuan deducted for the transportation, but I didn't." When Lu Jingxian spoke about the kickback that he got from being a "blood head", he was still somewhat proud.
Luliu village is formed from the four natural villages of Lu Zhai, Lushui Yuan, Sizhuang and Shiqiao. Due to the "blood disaster" from the 1990's, 195 out of the 1,256 persons in the village became infected with AIDS. According to the statistics, 532 (or 42%) persons from 324 families had sold blood.
"At the time, most families mobilized everybody. All the able bodies went," said villager Lu Zhaoguo. In 2002, he was found to have AIDS. In an examination in February of this year, he was found to test negative. While his family was ecstatic, his AIDS subsidy has been canceled.
Actually, Lu Jingxian can only be said to be a minor "blood head" because the ones who profit the most were the "blood heads" in the county. Most of those "blood heads" have found justice under the law of heaven. According to the villagers, there were three "blood heads" in the village, but the other two have died from AIDS. "In many other villages, there were no such 'blood heads.' If people wanted to sell blood, they would have to find their own way." One village said that the relatives of Lu Jingxian have all passed away due to AIDS, and he is the only one left.
"At first, I thought that my fellow citizens needed money and so I got them to go and sell blood. I had no idea that this would cost them their lives." Lu Jingxian felt that he could not face his fellow citizens. "Sometimes, I want to just drink some pesticide and go on my way," he said.
2. The Neighboring Village Accepted Them
On November 26, villager Zhang Aiqin took a basket and headed for the town market. Before going to market, she went to a bathhouse situated on the north side of town. She took out three creased 50 cent bills and handed it over to the female manager at the door. The manager smiled at her and handed her a pack of one-time-use shampoo.
"When the epidemic was happening in Luliu village years ago, the people in the next village would run away from them," said the bathhouse manager. "Later on, we got used to it. After all, we are all from the same town. Besides, there is some propaganda from above about the three ways by which AIDS can be spread. But bathing is not contagious." When she came out of the bathhouse, Zhang Aiqin looked bright and colored. On the street, she met some acquaintances and they said hello warmly. At the market, there were crowds of people coming and going . She stopped and looked here and there. She hesitated in front of a meat shop. Finally, she only bought a batch of spinach worth 50 cents.
The husband of Zhang Aiqin died from AIDS several years ago. She has unfortunately become a virus carrier. There is only the daughter left in the household with her. "When the people in the county hear that someone has the disease, they look at you in the same way." Jiang Tongfang who came with her said that they prefer to stay in the village because this is their home.
3. Longtime Illness Trains a Doctor
In a dark house, the elderly man Lu Jingkui was lying on the bed board. His body was shriveled underneath a filthy blanket and he was shivering. Lu Jinghui has been feverish for some days, and he has been in bed at home for two days. A kind-hearted neighbor went down to the village health clinic to get the doctor, who was unable to come because he was too busy.
Without choice, the neighbor Xiao Qin entered the house and got ready to give the old man an intravenous drip. Xiao Qin picked up a rusty pair of scissors on the desk and broke opn three bottles of intravenous fluid and then used the needle to extract the contents to put into the bottle. Afterwards, Xiao Qin took a swab of yellow-colored cotton and rubbed it on the back of the hand of Lu Jinghui. Then he deftly inserted the needle and the fluid entered slowly into the body of the old man. The eyes of the old man gradually regained their brightness. AIDS had taken away the lives of all the relatives of the old man, and he was now a lonely sufferer.
"I used to watch the doctors do injections. After having watched for so long, I began doing injections myself," said Xiao Qin. "Each time, I injected myself." Upon information, many villagers have become 'doctors' after suffering from the disease for so long. "Everyday, I have to take several different kinds of medicine. When I forget, my body suffers," said villager Lu Jinyu. The table in the living room of his home is arrayed with bottles of medicine.
Lu Jixian is just walking out the village health clinic with some pills for the flu. According to Lu Jixian, AIDS patients such as himself can get free medicine from the village health clinic. By his calculations, the medicine over the last month was worth more than 300 yuan.
Lu Jixian used to be the villager doctor there and had been practicing for more than 30 years. In 2002, he was diagnosed with AIDS, and he could no longer run his decades-old health clinic. His wife and three children were not spared either, because they have all been found positive.
4. The Hardship of an AIDS orphan
14-year-old Qingqing was making the meal at home while waiting for her younger brothers to return home from school. AIDS took away the lives of their parents and relatives. The three of them live together. The brothers attend the school on the west side of the village. Of the 216 students, more than 160 have been directly or indirectly adversely affected by AIDS -- some have AIDS-infected parents, some are orphans whose parents have died from AIDS and some are AIDS-infected themselves.
"With a family like ours, I can never go back to school again." In order to take care of her younger brothers, Qingqing dropped out of school. The brother Dahui and Xiaohui are both sensible. When they come home, they squat in the courtyard to do their homework and they help their sister with the farm work. "Inside Luliu village, the children are slightly better off. If they go to the outside, they can face all sorts of pressures. Since they are poor, many children have to drop out after elementary school," said a teacher. According to the statistics, there are 72 AIDS-related deaths, leading to 42 orphans and 27 solitary seniors.
79-year-old Lu Jiang is presently living with her grandson Xiaoyong. "I don't know how many more years I can live. What will happen the child after that?" Grandma Lu cried and she hoped that some kind-hearted person will adopt Xiaoyong so that he can continue to study. "A solitary senior such as her has basically lost labor capacity. Since prices of agricultural products are standardized and she has no other income, she lives an extremely difficult life," said the temporary village cadre Lu Ke.
5. The Director of the AIDS Village
At noon on November 25, Lu Biao directed the village residents to pick up the fertilizer bags at the village entrance. "The fertilizers are distributed to the AIDS families. Every four families get to share one bag," he said. He is the village director. In 2000, he was found to be an AIDS carrier.
"In the next year or two, the disease got very bad in the village. All the cadres left, and the party secretary was the only one who sat in the empty office," said Lu Biao. In 2003, he became the village director and has continued to do so up to now.
"When I first came, I ate with the village director. I found out that he said very little. He only picked up the food in front of him." So said the young cadre Jiang Lei. Before going home, Jiang Lei make sure to go the bathhouse at the county seat to clean himself thoroughly and then he entered his home. "After a while, people got used to it slowly and we are together," Jiang Lei added.
In order to make sure the villagers get clean water, the county recently sent more than 600,000 yuan to the village to make sure that each family has a deep-water well. The village party secretary Lu Wei is presently registering each family, one at a time. "According to the 'Four Reliefs and One Concern (四免一关怀)' policy, each AIDS sufferer can get a living allowance of 50 yuan per month," said Lu Biao. But he felt that this standard is "a bit low" and intends to tell his superior that.