Grandfather of HIV-positive boy in China defends petition to expel him from village

Students hold a giant red ribbon made by themselves during an event to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS on the World AIDS Day, in Fuyang, Anhui province, on Dec 1, 2014. The grandfather of a Chinese HIV-positive boy has defended his support for a petition
Students hold a giant red ribbon made by themselves during an event to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS on the World AIDS Day, in Fuyang, Anhui province, on Dec 1, 2014. The grandfather of a Chinese HIV-positive boy has defended his support for a petition to banish him from their village, in a case that has sparked intense soul-searching in China. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (AFP) - The grandfather of a Chinese HIV-positive boy has defended his support for a petition to banish him from their village, the media reported on Saturday, in a case that has sparked intense soul-searching in China.

Some 200 residents - including the eight-year-old's own grandfather - signed a petition to expel him from their village in China's southwestern Sichuan province, in a bid to "protect villagers' health". Reports said Kunkun was born HIV-positive through transmission from his mother.

The child's grandfather and guardian Luo Wenhui told the Beijing News daily that when he signed the petition he "hoped that it would make things better", as the boy would receive improved care elsewhere. "We are getting too old, and he is getting more naughty... we don't have the ability to look after him," Mr Luo said. "If he didn't live better outside the village, he could come back."

The boy, who has been given the pseudonym Kunkun by media, was left in his grandfather's care when both his parents left the impoverished village to seek work. Kunkun remains under his grandfather's care in the village for the time being, the Beijing News indicated.

Mr Luo, who is aged over 60, told the paper that he "did not have long to live" and that the petition was suggested by a local journalist as a way of drawing attention to his grandson's plight.

The case has prompted huge debate on Chinese social media and highlighted the stigma attached to the disease in a country where sufferers face widespread discrimination.

Kunkun was reportedly referred to as a "time bomb" by villagers worried about being infected, while local children shunned him.

The Global Times said the boy's mother left the family in 2006, while his father "lost contact" after Kunkun's condition was diagnosed.

Kunkun told the Beijing News that he could not remember what his parents looked like, adding: "Other children don't play with me."

Asked if he would like to leave the village, the newspaper reported that the boy shook his head before running off to chase a nearby duck.