Her Royal Highness Princess Mathilde of Belgium, China Red Cross Executive Director Jiang Yiman, and Olympic table tennis champion Deng Yaping were joined by Li Xiang, a Chinese HIV carrier, in a tree-planting ceremony at the Olympics construction site Tuesday.
Li, together with a dozen Chinese HIV carriers, joined the "Olympics with you and me" tree-planting event.
"It's not the first time I have attended this kind of public activity," Li told Princess Mathilde when shaking hands with her.
The 32-year Li became a HIV carrier after a blood transfusion accident 13 years ago. In 2002, he founded China's first non-governmental organization (NGO) "Mangrove" for HIV carriers.
Another HIV carrier Meng Lin set up an information network called "Ark of Love" in 2005. Over the past two years, he has successfully provided medical services and developed capacity building programs in HIV carrier communities.
Meng joined student volunteers to plant trees and took photos with friends. "With more publicity about the AIDS/HIV awareness campaign, more and more HIV carriers have faced up to the reality and taken active steps to have a normal social life," he said.
Mukesh Kapila, special representative of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, said advanced medicine and technology would turn out to be failures if discrimination against HIV-carriers cannot be overcome.
"Chinese society has tried hard to help marginalized people and those who suffer discrimination," he said.
With the support of the Chinese Ministry of Health, "Mangrove" has held exhibitions on AIDS/HIV awareness in more than 10 cities in four Chinese provinces, attracting a total of 120,000 visitors, HIV carriers, and volunteers.
"The situation has improved," Li said, "Yet some people still believe that AIDS cannot affect them."
Statistics show that by Oct 31, 2006, China had reported more than 180,000 AIDS/HIV cases, of which more than 40,000 are confirmed AIDS patients.
"China is still facing great challenges posed by the AIDS epidemic," Li said.
"Education is a social vaccine," Princess Mathilde cited the remarks of UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot. As a psychologist herself, she believes that "when people know how to prevent HIV, they will understand that there is no need for stigmatization and discrimination against people living with HIV."
She stressed that the theme of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games "one world, one dream" reflects the universal values of the Olympic spirit -- unity, friendship, progress, harmony, and participation.
"These very values are also the ones that should guide us in all our contacts with others, whatever their age, sex, ethnic origin, or HIV-status," she said, stressing that people should use the opportunity of the Olympics to inspire the younger generation to pursue a more healthy life.
Presenting Princess Mathilde with a traditional Chinese painting, Meng specially invited her to visit Beijing in 2008.
(Xinhua News Agency June 20, 2007)