Postcards from China’s first AIDS ride
Liu Jiulong is the first person in China to complete an AIDS RIDE. This fundraiser and HIV awareness raising bicycling event has been popular in other countries like the USA for many years. However, in China fear of stigma and discrimination have kept many people living with HIV from taking part in public events.
“Cycling promotes a healthy lifestyle and the AIDS RIDE is a good way to promote correct HIV prevention knowledge to the general public,” said Liu Jiulong.
His mission was to use the challenge to eliminate ignorance, misunderstanding, fear and discrimination for people living with HIV. His odyssey began 4 May in Nanchang city, his hometown. He rode his bike for 3000 km, cycling through 27 cities. 43 days later he completed his journey triumphantly in Beijing. Liu Jiulong said he carried out 30 advocacy activities during his trip, reaching 16 million people online.
He spoke about how he felt when he reached the finish line, “There were so many people involved and I enjoyed the mutual support we gave each other.”
Life was anything but great in 2007 when Liu Jiulong was diagnosed with HIV. He was working at an advertising company in Beijing.
He speaks about how he felt then,”I thought I won’t live to be 35 years old. I felt worthless and also very guilty and bad towards my family.” He also experienced stigma and discrimination with people stopping to speak to him when they learnt about his status.
He felt so desperate that he even tried to commit suicide. Eventually with the support of caring doctors, nurses and volunteer supporters at the Beijing Youan Hospital he made it through those dark days and decided to move back to his hometown. He founded an organization called “Love Service Station” to support people living with HIV in Nanchang City.
Liu Jiulong started taking antiretroviral treatment for HIV in 2009 and said it has changed his life, “With life-saving treatment, I’m in a good situation. I can complete the 3000 km AIDS RIDE.”
Liu Jiulong wants other people living with HIV to know that with effective self management of HIV and by taking ARV treatment, they can improve the quality of their life. He is proud of his recent achievement, “It’s a great feeling.”