Friday, October 02, 2009

AIDS Relief Fund for China Celebrates Six Years of HIV/AIDS Work in China

The AIDS Relief Fund for China (AFRC) celebrated their six years of HIV/AIDS work at the Be My Guest Thai Bistro in San Francisco on Oct. 1, 2009. Every seat was taken and diners eagerly anticipated ARFC executive director Humphrey Wou’s latest videos of grantees and the sumptuous meal.

AIDS Relief Fund for China was founded by Roger Chow in 2003 when he realized that though the Chinese government had issued a document in 2001 about HIV/AIDS that stated that there would be free treatment, and that Premier Wen Jiabao had shaken hands with a person with HIV at the 2003 World AIDS Day, there was much that was missing from the top-down rulers’ plans. Many people would not be reached with education and there was nothing mentioned about the dangers of stigma. Many infected people had gone underground and there was rampant homophobia, which could spread the disease and lead to avoidance and denial of treatment.

ARFC was founded to reach out and educate, test and counsel, care and support, distribute condoms, and battle stigma. The targets of ARFC projects are mostly students, rural women, men who have sex with men (MSM), people with HIV, sex workers, and drug users. The conclusion that can be drawn is that ARFC complements the Chinese government’s efforts against HIV/AIDS, and that ARFC is an example to other countries’ activists.

The project videos shown by ARFC executive director Wou were short, high-tech with rich color, and highly personal. Wou was seen with grantees in China as they explained their accomplishments and future goals.

One of the strongest presentations was the Soymilk Station woman who pedals a tricycle to the homes of people with AIDS (PWAs) who subsist on only vegetables and rice, and she brings them soy milk for protein. The PWAs were introduced and they spoke about how their health had improved with her visits.

Another video was about the Migrant Women Sewing Class, where the women were shown learning how to use sewing machines and also receive information about safer sex and HIV.

A mother, Wu Youjian, was shown founding PFLAG China to help her gay son and other gays, lesbians, and their parents after Wou described PFLAG (Parents Friends and Family of Lesbians and Gays) in the U.S. to her.

Heart Talk Support Groups, similar to gay raps in the U.S., was shown as important discussion groups to educate about AIDS, broaden social circles, assist in personal growth, and relieve stress.

Other ARFC projects can be seen on the website. They include the Five Household Co-Op Project to provide for increased income for PWAs, a Peking Opera troupe that hands out HIV pamphlets after performances, and Sunshine Doctors that brings volunteer medical professionals to rural areas.

Notable guests included founder Roger Chow, who received a Proclamation from San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom brought by aide Francis Tsang, Pangea Global AIDS Foundation board chair Joe Garrett, AIDS researchers and lovers George Ayala and Tri Do, dedicated volunteer Daniel Bao, playwright Charles Belov, and Chris “Donchawishyawasme” Young, who can be counted on to be the most outrageous Miss GAPA contestant at the annual GAPA Runway Pageant. Donors and longtime lovers John Gibbons and Neal Brengle spoke eloquently about how impressed they are with ARFC, and how they can clearly see how their contributions are utilized.

As in past years ARFC diners enjoyed the excellent meal at Be My Guest Thai Bistro on Clement Street in the Richmond district of San Francisco. The coconut soup, chicken and shrimp dishes, and the refreshing ice cream dessert drew smiles all around.

The dinner’s warmth and bonding was accentuated at the end of the event when ARFC board chair Teresa Spitzer carefully explained how continued support could increase the foundation’s alleviation of suffering in China, and ARFC executive director Wou thanked everyone for attending.

[Photo caption #1: 10/1/09 — AIDS Relief Fund for China executive director Humphrey Wou, board president Teresa Spitzer, and Pangea Global AIDS Foundation board president Joe Garrett.]

[Photo caption #2: 10/1/09 — AIDS researchers Tri Do and George Ayala, who are lovers that met at an AIDS conference, with ARFC executive director Humphrey Wou.]

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