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Contrasting World AIDS Day coverage in China’s newspapers

Dushi Nvbao 30 Nov

With tomorrow being World AIDS Day, a handful of newspapers in China today ran special features and front page headlines on HIV/AIDS-related stories. This coverage came in contrasting styles, however. While most newspapers focused on informative education and prevention activities related to HIV/AIDS, Dongguan Times went straight for the proverbial low blow by focusing its front page story entirely on brave and nervous nurses at a local hospital while they treat AIDS patients who seem crazy and plague-ridden (and who are mostly outsiders [外地人] anyway).

The Dongguan Times from Guangdong province today thought it would do something for World AIDS Day tomorrow, so what better than send one of its journalists into what it calls the “AIDS protection and prevention medical personnel community”? The resultant article’s headline sets the tone for what’s coming: “Every day face-to-face with AIDS patients, see how fearless they are” (每天与艾滋病患者零距离 看他们如何不恐“艾”).

The journalist informs us that “usually most people will completely shun this place, but now that another December 1 World AIDS Day is coming around, this place is getting some attention again.” She notes that there were this year around 400 cases of HIV infection at the hospital, which is a significant increase on previous years. Even though knowledge of AIDS and HIV prevention has increased, she continues, some people are still very afraid of the disease and the people carrying it [presumably including herself in this group?]. So how do the medical personnel who work at the “Compassion Ward” (as the ward for AIDS patients is known) do it every day?

The rest of the article then proceeds to describe to what lengths the nurses go to protect themselves from the AIDS patients, two-thirds of which we are told are actually not locals (外地人) anyway. With nerve-wracking tales of nurses cleaning up furiously and disinfecting every room twice, the article focuses entirely on the nurses and their tough day job dealing with these people that should seemingly be avoided like the plague.

That’s some article for World AIDS Day, Dongguan Times – way to go.

Luckily there were some more enlightened coverage in other papers.

The City lady (都市女报) from Shandong province has a special section of four pages on HIV/AIDS today with four separate articles. The first of these, “Provide ‘them’ with condoms” (把安全套送给“她们”), discusses a new “China-US” project for raising HIV/AIDS awareness and education among sex workers in China (i.e. “them”). The article documents the travails of Wang Juan (王娟, not her real name), as she works to reach out to sex workers on issues of safe sex. There are three things involved here, Wang Juan tells us: places of entertainment, condoms, and AIDS. Yet even just one of these things by themselves is already very sensitive, she says, but “if you add them all three together it makes for an explosion”. In other related articles, City Lady discusses a case of doctors refusing to provide treatment to an AIDS patient in Tianjin (拒诊艾滋病人 济南未发生过), and a case of HIV/AIDS-related employment discrimination from Jiangxi province (体检查出艾滋江西小伙被).

Tianfu Morning News (天府早报) from Sichuan province today published a piece called “No longer will AIDS be alone” (不再让“艾”孤单) by a journalist looking back at five years of interviews with people living with HIV/AIDS. The journalist describes his initial fears on being close to such people, and how he overcame such fears to eventually be able to give them “bear hugs.”

Lastly, the Zhoukou Evening News (周口晚报) from Henan province today featured only an image and short description on its homepage of a ceremony by volunteers at a teacher’s university in Fuyang (阜阳), Anhui province. The volunteers made a big red AIDS ribbon and carried out AIDS prevention and education activities on campus under the theme of “Action on HIV/AIDS: Moving to zero”.

You see Dongguan Times, that’s how you do it.

Links and sources
Dongguan Times (东莞时报): 每天与艾滋病患者零距离 看他们如何不恐“艾”
City Lady (都市女报): 把安全套送给“她们”; “我们一直害怕项目会夭折”; 拒诊艾滋病人 济南未发生过; 体检查出艾滋江西小伙被拒录
Tianfu Morning News (天府早报): 不再让“艾”孤单
Zhoukou Evening News (周口晚报): 行动起来,向“零”艾滋迈进