First of all, I would like to thank the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation for giving me this award. It is such an honor for me. I do not think I have done enough work to deserve this great award for public service. As a retired doctor in China, I only did what a doctor should do; I only did what an ordinary educated Chinese person should do for the country and the people.
I met my first AIDS patient in China in 1996 at a Henan hospital. She was a forty-year-old rural woman, found to be HIV-positive only a few days before she died of AIDS. This made me think that in China people, including most doctors, still have no knowledge about this deadly disease. The woman was just one of thousands who died of this disease, and most of them did not even know what disease killed them.
The woman was infected with HIV through a hospital blood transfusion. Since the early nineties, I knew that blood trade was rampant in hundreds of villages in Henan Province. Around two million farmers in Henan had sold their blood to make money from 1991 to 1996.
I was worried about the situation and what was going to happen, but I had no power, no money. So I started to write. I printed some materials on AIDS. I went to railway stations, public squares, and crowded streets to offer them to people. The first year, I printed and distributed more than five hundred thousand copies. I also often went to the countryside where I saw that in most of the AIDS-afflicted villages, people were dying without care from the government.
After parents died of AIDS, their orphans had no food and no money to go to school. Most of the AIDS families, including the children, were looked down upon by other people within and outside their villages, until most of the other villagers found out later that they, too, were infected with HIV. It was so miserable, as I can describe it; life in the villages was full of poverty, illness, and corruption by local officials.
I will tell a story, so that you may understand why I still want to do whatever I can for AIDS victims in Henan, in spite of so many difficulties I have to face. In 2000, I went to a village. As I passed a narrow lane, I heard a child shouting, "Mama, come down; Mama, come down." When I went into the house, I saw the child's mother had hanged herself. The little child did not know his mother had already died; he was pulling her foot and kept calling his mother to come down from where she was. The mother found out she was HIV-positive not long before; her husband had previously died of AIDS, and they had wasted all their money on fake doctors. This kind of story is present everywhere, in all the AIDS villages in Henan.
I was lucky in dealing with my difficulties working in the villages. When I was in trouble, journalists, both local and international, helped me. With their help, the AIDS crisis in Henan was revealed to the public. With their stories, more and more people are being alerted about the AIDS problem in China.
My belief is this: to understand AIDS, patients should be treated nicely. To help them, even take care of them and not look down upon them, is everyone's duty in society.
For my work, I would like to take this opportunity to thank my husband, my sons, and daughters who have given me so much support these past years. Without their support and sacrifice, my work could not be done.
Again, I would like to say that what I did is simply what I should have done as a citizen. I also hope everyone shares my belief that AIDS work is everyone's responsibility. Thank you very much.