With support from PEPFAR, a network of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) is changing local attitudes and policies concerning HIV/AIDS. The network is a significant achievement for the community of Wuzhou City, located in Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region - one of China's most severely affected areas.
In China, where as elsewhere the fear of stigma and discrimination prevents many people from disclosing their HIV status, PLWHA networks are few. In 2005 and 2006, the Emergency Plan organized training workshops to build the capacity of a core group of PLWHA leaders. As a result, in March 2006, participants formed a network of PLWHA in Wuzhou City, which has grown quickly.
The strengthening of PLWHA leaders in Wuzhou is having a significant impact on the lives of HIV-positive people in the region. In addition to exercising leadership, network members also have gained respect from the community.
The Wuzhou PLWHA network has received two public "Praise Letters," recognizing the group for its "noble" work. One letter from local police thanked the PLWHA network for responding when police called in the network to care for an HIV-positive woman who was considering suicide. The other letter was from a local community committee, thanking the network members for putting out a fire in a nearby residence before the fire brigade could arrive. By being open about their HIV status, members of the Wuzhou network have received positive, public recognition - a groundbreaking achievement in a country where HIV-related stigma and discrimination are high.
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