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Last Updated: Wednesday, 3 December, 2003, 12:38 GMT
'I don't know how many years are left'

As part of a BBC series on Aids, people living with HIV from around the world tell their own stories in their own words.

city life
Proper nutrition makes a big difference, Huang says

Huang is a taxi driver who lives in a village in Henan, China, and who contracted HIV through blood donation in the 1990s. He says life in the village can be tough, and exacerbates the impact of the virus.

I donated blood several times in 1992 and 1993. And then I went to work in southern China for a few years. During those years I never felt anything wrong with my health, but my wife said she was feeling a bit unwell.

I often phoned home to see how things were and heard that the situation in the village was not very good because they had found Aids there. I was shocked and really scared.

Although I felt that my general health was good, I was beginning to wonder if I had also contracted the disease. Eventually I drove back to my village in my cab.

My wife and I paid for a test at the local epidemic prevention centre. We found out that we were both HIV positive.

Starting the car business

I felt terribly confused at the time.

Perhaps I hated myself for having sold blood. But that was the situation at the time. The government called upon people to donate blood. If you refused, it was assumed that you were not a normal and healthy person.

Between 20 and 40 people in our village had all donated blood. Some donated more than others did.

I was told I was positive in April this year.

While there was not yet any discrimination within our village and I was able to continue normal activities with others, to go further afield became difficult.

I couldn't go to another village. If people heard that you were HIV positive they would avoid you.

I feel that my health is good and even if I don't take the medication I should have no problem living another three to five years
There are four in my family living on a land of just over one mu (about 0.06 hectare). The family depends mainly on my income. I couldn't go out to work and I couldn't be idle. I bought a car and started a car hire business.

I got most of my business from the local city.

As I had been away for several years in southern China, most people around did not know me. That was fortunate. Otherwise, if people knew that I was HIV positive they would definitely not hire my car.

City village life

I have started taking the free medication for HIV virus given to me by the government, but I am not really taking it as prescribed because the side effects are too severe.

My health was originally quite good, but after taking the medication I felt terrible. I felt washed out. I had no energy and was tired and sleepy.

There was pain in my arm, leg and shoulder. I couldn't do any work.

When we were given the medication the health authority proclaimed this cocktail medication to be so wonderful that it could make us live to 80, and we really shouldn't be moaning and complaining.

But, after taking the medication, we didn't feel good at all. Seventy to 80% of the people couldn't continue taking it.

I didn't feel it was suitable for everybody and wanted to wait a little longer to see if there was any better medication.

When I was working in Guangdong province, in southern China, I had nourishing foods and good nutrition.

Living conditions there were good and driving a taxi was considered a rather superior job. I felt happy and my health was quite good. That was probably why the virus in me was not active. However, life in a village in general is much poorer.

People have to do hard labour work so the virus there is more likely to show its effect on people.

Bouts of depression

I feel that my health is good and even if I don't take the medication, I should have no problem living another three to five years.

My problem is mainly the burden I feel in my heart. If no one mentions the disease I tend to forget about it and can chat happily with people. But, if the disease is mentioned I immediately feel depressed.

There was a point when I wanted to die.

Life had no meaning to me anymore and I thought I would rather be dead. I have since calmed down.

But, to be honest, I really think I should feel prepared. Whenever I see other patients lying in bed unable to get up any more I would remind myself that when it is my turn to get ill I must take resolute action and commit suicide. I don't want to suffer such torture.

No time to worry

At present, I seem to be all right. I may be carrying the virus. It is not active yet. Basically I am like a normal person.

My older daughter is studying in the county high school. I told her to concentrate on her studies and that I would support her as long as I could.

My younger son is now 13. According to our village customs I should be preparing to build him a house and starting to look for a wife.

But I can't really worry too much about him now. I don't know how many years I still have to live.

This interview was conducted by Chaoyang Zhao for the BBC's Chinese service.

The following reflect a balance of the comments we received:

I hope that those people can now get the help they deserve
Roy Wilson, London

I was a VSO teacher in Nanyang city, Henan Province for two years. My colleague is still there. We showed an Aids awareness VCD to all our students who were interested in knowing more about Aids and were very grateful for the information.

Now, these young Henan people can be aware of the problem on their doorstep but I hope that those people can now get the help they deserve. Many young people in Henan are still very ignorant about the crisis in their own province.

My former colleague is there right now in Henan with VSO helping to spread awareness but the Chinese and Henan authorities must do more themselves. This is the only way to improve the situation. My best wishes to Huang.
Roy Wilson, London, UK

Good luck Huang. What you have ahead of you is certainly difficult, and I myself have difficulty imagining what it is you must be going through. But I wish you the greatest of luck. Take care of yourself, make the best of the time you do have. Most of all, teach your children about the HIV virus and the truth about it, in hopes that none of them will come to suffer from it. My deepest regrets to you and my warmest wishes.
Robert Gaudio, Toronto, Canada

Well, I think what you are doing is so wonderful, and think you should keep on fighting the sickness. I hope your kids will see in the future what you did for them, and see how you struggled. I wish you all the best in the future.
Viv, Stockholm, Sweden

It is sad. I think Aids is a big problem in China with the continuing ignorance by the government and the discrimination of society. I hope through the media and all other channels, people will learn how to cope with this disease: knowing how to avoid getting it, how to live with and accept people with Aids, hence preventing it from spreading.
Siyang Zhang, Dalian, China

Huang, I know a case here in Brazil very similar to yours. This family were in the beginning of the disease very unhappy with their lives, but nowadays they are very united to win this war. And they are winning, and they are now a happy family. Much happier than they were before the disease. Believe in God.
Diogo Cigarro, São Paulo, Brazil

Live as boldly as you can and accept peacefully whatever might turn out
Kyle Liu, Vancouver

Life is already very hard for most villagers in China. I cannot imagine how it would be for someone who is HIV positive. I hope Huang, and every other HIV person in the world, will not be sad. Hold on to reality, live as boldly as you can and accept peacefully whatever might turn out. The human world has not yet any perfect solution to the virus. It means that everyone always need to be careful with administering blood, and practising sex - before it's too late.
Kyle Liu, Vancouver, Canada

The best thing one could do in this kind of situation is to be upbeat. But the Chinese government haven't been doing much in correcting their wrongs in its country's Aids crisis. Free medication means something but it's a far cry from being responsible.
Sunny, Detroit, USA

I feel awfully sad, owing to the fact that you did not deserve to get this virus.
Gigi, Malaysia

What a tragic tale, and such a senseless waste of an obviously good man's health and life. I send all best wishes for your ongoing good health. And for comfort and peace if and when you decide your life is to end.
Naomi, UK

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