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'Born again' HIV patients look to brighter future

By Cao Bin | China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-30 07:12

Ahead of World AIDS Day on Friday, three people explain how they are beating the once-deadly disease. Cao Bin reports for Xinhua Features.

As preparation for his new life at a university in the United States, A'le gets up early, jogs for an hour, eats a large breakfast and then heads to a nearby cafe to spend the day studying.

Meanwhile, Xiaojuan is busy cleaning her flower shop, preparing orders for customers and putting fresh blooms in the window display.

Mingzai is stressed because his daughter has been coughing all night and needs to go to the hospital, but they are stuck in traffic.

Though they live in three different cities and lead very different lives, A'le, Xiaojuan and Mingzai have something in common: they are all living with HIV.

The days pass quickly for all three, and they rarely feel different to the people around them until the evening, when their cellphone alarms begin to ring.

A'le is just back from the gym. Xiaojuan is video chatting her parents. They both pop three pills. Mingzai is having dinner with some clients, but makes an excuse to leave the restaurant briefly, swallow his pills and wash them down with a bottle of water.

All three are undergoing antiretroviral therapy, a combination of three antiretroviral drugs that suppress the HIV virus and prevent transmission. China has been offering the drugs for free to people with HIV since 2003.

Thanks to the drugs, AIDS is no longer regarded a terminal disease, but a chronic illness that can be controlled. Adherence to the drugs can keep the viral load in an HIV patient's blood at an extremely low level, ultimately making it undetectable. The patient's immune system can be rebuilt, and they can have healthy children and an unaffected life expectancy.

"After being diagnosed as HIV-positive, many people pay more attention to leading healthier lifestyles, adopt a more responsible attitude towards life and lead better lives," said Li Hui, a member of the Shandong Provincial AIDS Prevention and Treatment Association.

Inspiration

Four years ago, Li opened a public WeChat account to post useful information about HIV and treatment, the latest research on the disease, and upbeat messages and stories from the account's followers.

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