" --IANS/EFE"
Beijing, Dec 18 (IANS/EFE) The inhabitants of Shufangya, a village in China's southwestern Sichuan province, have been collecting signatures on a petition to expel an eight-year-old boy from the village because he is infected with the HIV virus.

The official newspaper Global Times reported Thursday that more than 200 people, including the boy's own grandfather, signed the petition asking for the youngster's removal in order to protect villagers' health.

Despite being prohibited by Chinese law, the boy has been turned away by local schools and is shunned by villagers who avoid physical contact with him, added the newspaper.

The boy discovered that he was HIV positive in 2011 when he went to the doctor to be treated for minor injuries.

Although the villagers sympathise with him, HIV and AIDS frighten us. We hope that some special organisation can look after him, Wang Yishu, Communist Party chief of Shufangya village, told the daily.

However, the Liqiao township government which governs Shufangya said that the villagers could not vote to expel the boy and that he enjoys the same rights as other people.

The minor is currently living with his grandparents as his father is working in Guangzhou and his mother left home shortly after he was born.

The NGO AIDS Care China that provides support to HIV carriers in the country has said that it would take care of the boy temporarily with his grandparents' permission.

We hope that the local residents can accept him, said Qiu Lei, a member of the organisation.

According to the latest data from the National Health and Family Planning Commission of China released Dec 1 on the occasion of World AIDS Day, there are 497,000 HIV-positive people in the country.

While anti-retrovirals are relatively easy to get in China, there is still widespread discrimination against HIV carriers, especially in workplace situations.

--IANS/EFE

ab/bg


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