China promises medical care for HIV-positive boy that village wants to expel: State media

BEIJING (AFP) - Beijing has pledged to provide medical treatment and a living allowance for an HIV-positive 8-year-old boy who was last week threatened with expulsion from his village, state media reported on Monday.

In a case that sparked intense soul-searching in China, some 200 residents - including the child's own grandfather - signed a petition to expel him from their village in southwestern Sichuan province to "protect villagers' health".

Beijing has now pledged to ensure the boy, dubbed Kunkun in the media, gets an education after reports he was having trouble finding a school that would take him, the China Daily said. China's Health Ministry has also pledged to conduct spot checks around China to uncover any other violations of anti-discrimination policies, the state-run paper reported.

The United Nations said that it was "deeply concerned" about that case, which has prompted huge debate in China and highlighted the stigma attached to the virus in a country where sufferers face widespread discrimination. "Stigma and discrimination are our biggest enemies in the fight to end HIV," the UN said in a statement published on Friday. "But sadly, this week's reports demonstrate that breaching confidentiality, ignorance and fear continue to have devastating consequences for those living with HIV."

It was unclear on Monday whether Kunkun still faces expulsion from the village, where he had been living under his grandfather's care.

The child's grandfather and guardian Luo Wenhui told the Beijing News on Saturday that he had signed the petition to remove Kunkun because he "hoped that it would make things better", as he would receive better care elsewhere.

The boy was reportedly referred to as a "time bomb" by villagers worried about being infected and local children shunned him.

Reports said Kunkun was born HIV-positive through transmission from his mother.