China AIDS activists laud documentary Oscar

Reuters | February 26, 2007

http://www.reuters.com/article/gc03/idUSPEK22181120070226?sp=true

BEIJING (Reuters) - A film about Chinese orphans of AIDS victims won an Oscar for best documentary short film, which a prominent AIDS activist in China said showed people still cared.

Ruby Yang and Thomas Lennon won the Oscar for "The Blood of Yingzhou District" which tells the story of traditional Chinese obligations of family colliding with the fears of AIDS in impoverished Anhui province and the fate of those left behind.

"I hadn't heard of the film, but it's a good thing people care about this," HIV-infected AIDS activist Li Xige, from the adjoining province of Henan, told Reuters.

"Because this problem has been going on for so long and sometimes I'm afraid it might be forgotten."

An estimated 650,000 people are living with HIV/AIDS in China, and health experts say the disease is moving into the general population.

Henan was the center of an AIDS scandal in the 1990s in which people sold blood to unsanitary, often state-run health clinics, making the province the center of the nation's AIDS epidemic. Such schemes are also common in Anhui.

Li was infected through a transfusion, not by selling blood.

China's Xinhua news agency quoted Yang as saying backstage at the Kodak Theater in Los Angeles that it was "a very emotional journey for me" to make the film in China.

Yang said she and Lennon "also had a hard time in the editing room because there were so many sad parts, and they had many shouting matches about what to let go and what to put in", Xinhua said.

Chung To, a friend of Yang and founder/chairman of the Hong Kong-based Chi Heng Foundation, which supports some 4,000 AIDS orphans in China, said little had been done "artistically or in terms of documentaries" to publicize the issue.

"I think the award really raises awareness about AIDS in China and especially the plight of AIDS orphans. When we talk about AIDS orphans people really usually think of Africa, but in China this is still a very serious issue."

He said China officially estimates there are 76,000 AIDS orphans and says the number will grow to 260,000 by 2010, but Chung says that probably underestimates the problem.