Showing her true face
Updated: 2013-06-27 15:43
By Zhang Yue and Sun Ruisheng (China Daily)
Liu Liping takes the role of the mother for 23 children with HIV/AIDS at the Red Ribbon School in Linfen, Shanxi province. [Photo by Kuang Linhua/China Daily]
"I thought: 'I'll die wherever I stay'," she says.
"I'd rather die at home than in such a horrific place."
But she noticed some of the patients were children.
"My heart broke when I saw them," she says.
"Their moms infected them. I've lived 30 healthy years. But they were infected on Day 1 and never got to enjoy life as healthy kids."
Liu stayed with the children after her main treatment. She has taken the three-hour drive to her hometown in rural Yuncheng, Shanxi province, every two weeks since 2005 to spend weekends with her husband and adopted daughter.
Liu's husband has been supportive of her and her career since her diagnosis.
The biggest conflict has been about her CCTV appearance.
Liu says he asked her: "Have you ever thought about us? Why don't you show some concern for your family? I feel tremendous pressure."
She says: "I'm very selfish in doing this. I feel guilty for my husband. He's the one caring for our daughter and doing most of the housework. I know he has been dealing with a lot."
But she still insists on continuing her work.
"I've learned there are many social workers and volunteer groups countering discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS, which is great," she says.
"But I think it's important we speak for ourselves because nobody better understands our realities."
She also feels guilty about her 8-year-old daughter. The girl never complains about her mother spending too little time with her. But there was one moment when Liu returned home and told her daughter she didn't clean her nails as well as other girls, to which her girl replied: "But their moms take care of them."
Liu didn't know what to say.
Most of the Red Ribbon School's children's mothers died from AIDS, after contracting HIV from blood transfusions given during birth. Nearly all of them live with their fathers or grandparents.
"I've lived as the mother to all 23 kids," Liu says. "I try my best to give them as normal and happy childhoods as possible. Some stay through vacations. Nobody at the school treats the children differently. But they feel alienated when they live with healthy families."