OVER 200 residents in a southwestern Chinese province have signed a petition to expel eight-year-old HIV positive boy Kunkun from his village.

The petition reads: “In order to ensure the safety of villagers and children, we demand that authorities quarantine Kunkun* for treatment.”

Among the 200 who signed in Shufangya village, which forms part of the Liqiao township, were his guardian, grandfather, school and family friends.

Reporters say he has been feeling isolated and confused since he was diagnosed with HIV in 2011.

The villagers know little about the virus and avoid physical contact with Kunkun for fear of their heath.

One of the villagers told the People’s Daily’s newspaper that “he’s a ticking time bomb”.

“My daughter is around his age… What happens if she gets bitten while playing with him here at home? That boy is too dangerous,” He Jialing said.

According to People’s Daily, Kunkun said: “Nobody plays (with me), I play alone.”

The boy’s grandfather Luo told the Global Times that HIV was transmitted to Kunkun by his mother, who left the family in 2006, and that his father cut off contact after he was diagnosed.

The case has exposed the stigma attached to the condition and widespread ignorance about it, despite an estimated half a million people in China living with HIV or AIDS.

Discrimination against those living with HIV remains an issue at schools, hospitals, workplaces and other establishments across the country, but it is worse in poor, rural areas according to experts.

Tang*, a community coordinator for AIDS advocacy group Aizhixing, said attempts by various authorities to educate people about HIV often fail because “the campaigns are not strong enough to reach the rural areas and villages”.

“[The people] know little about civil rights and they have a poor sense of the disease… and that’s why there is more discrimination there,” Tang told Agence France-Presse.

For now, high-ranking officials from the Liqiao township government are looking after Kunkun.

They said that villagers could not “legally” vote to expel the boy, and that discrimination against HIV and AIDS carriers in education and employment is illegal under Chinese laws.

Staff member Qiu Lei from non-government HIV support group AIDS Care China said that the organisation would provide Kunkun with immediate medical assistance.

“[His blood tests] show that he needs professional medical treatment immediately,” Lei told the Global Times.

The widespread criticism of Kunkun’s case has pushed local authorities to discuss an educational campaign targeted at reducing the stigma of people living with HIV and AIDS in remote villages.

(* = only name provided)

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