The State-run radio network this week will launch an HIV/AIDS awareness program hosted by HIV-positive volunteers to help raise public awareness and reduce discrimination associated with the disease.
The program, called Positive Talk and co-hosted by professional radio personalities and trained volunteers, will be broadcast live to an estimated national audience of 300 million through China National Radio every Saturday night beginning Jan 16.
"It's a giant step forward a showing the government's resolve to fight the disease and related discrimination," Zhou Yi, an HIV-positive volunteer who will lead a team of 30 radio program volunteers, told China Daily during a launch program on Saturday.
"It would have been unbelievable for HIV/AIDS sufferers to appear on a State-owned radio program years ago to talk about their lives and experiences in China, where HIV-related discrimination still exists even today," he said.
Zhou said it took two years to persuade China Radio Network officials to launch the program.
Previously, HIV/AIDS public service announcements starring celebrities including Yao Ming had been broadcast on State television. But Zhou said this would be the first time a program led by HIV-positive volunteers would be featured on any State media outlet.
Program host Liu Jing said the messages conveyed by the program will be positive, practical and full of hope.
"It's not simply dialogue between the HIV-positive and the negative, but a platform for all to share life experiences and pick up HIV/AIDS prevention and control knowledge," Liu said.
Because sex has become the main transmission route for HIV in China, the virus is now spreading to the general public, experts said.
"The care and support delivered through the program to the sufferers will also benefit the general public because a 'positive' lifestyle of the infected would help prevent the virus from further spreading," said Ma Bijun, an AIDS patient and program volunteer.
China has an estimated 740,000 HIV-positive people, while another 50 million are considered at high risk for the disease, according to official statistics
"I truly believe that the program will be an important milestone in the fight against the epidemic," said Subinay Nandy, the country director in China of the United Nations Development Program, which funds the radio program.
Despite the top-down anti-AIDS discrimination efforts featuring annual State leaders' visit to sufferers since 2003, when the government began implementing a series of HIV/AIDS-related support and care measures like free HIV screenings and AIDS treatment, the latest survey by the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) has found that more than 40 percent of 2,096 HIV-positive respondents, had suffered HIV-related discrimination.
Bernhard Schwartlander, the UNAIDS country coordinator for China, said the program will help address that because it is about real people, not just diseases or numbers.