BEIJING (ILO News) – The International Labour Organization (ILO) and the State Council AIDS Committee Office will jointly launch, on 25 November 2008, China’s first HIV/AIDS prevention campaign featuring migrant workers to target theirhometown fellows or “lao xiang” 老乡.
The multi-media campaign aims at reducing stigma and discrimination, and encourage safer sexual behaviours among mobile male migrant labourers, particularly those working in construction, natural resources, and transportation sectors. It is part of an ILO programme on HIV/AIDS carried out in partnership with China’s Ministry of Human Resources and Social Security, the All China Federation of Trade Unions, and the China Enterprise Confederation.
The centrepiece of the campaign is a short film directed by Cannes Film Festival winning director Gu Changwei. The film tells the story of Zhang Xiaohu, a construction worker who is rejected by his co-workers and friends because he has HIV. Leading movie star and former migrant construction worker, Wang Baoqiang, appears in the film as himself, to promote safer sex and the message of tolerance and acceptance.
“China has about 200 million migrant workers which is over 10 per cent of the country’s population. They are amongst the vulnerable when it comes to the risk of contracting HIV”, says Ms Constance Thomas, the Director of International Labour Organization in China. “Migrant workers play a major role in China’s employment market. They are the backbone of the economy. We must give them all the support we can.”
ILO research shows that rural migrant workers hold significant misperceptions about HIV transmission and prevention. Many of them engage in high-risk behaviours including commercial sex without condoms. Negative attitudes among migrants towards people living with HIV are also pervasive. One survey shows that almost 8 out of 10 respondents would not want to work with a person who is HIV positive.
Some 700,000 people are living with HIV in China, according to the Ministry of Health. Over half of them contracted the virus through sexual activities. The government is increasingly placing great emphasis on protecting rural migrant workers from HIV infection to help prevent HIV from shifting from so-called high-risk populations to the general public.