Hu Zetao, a teenage boy from Linfen, China is among the students of the first graduating class at the Red Ribbon boarding school for HIV positive children. Hu was born with HIV and has spent the past 11 years at the school, which cares for and shelters children shunned and abandoned by their communities because of HIV stigma. AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) has been a proud sponsor of the school’s vital work since 2006.
Hu recently garnered media attention after he penned an open letter in March recounting his experience at the school and thanking his teachers and those who had supported him during his studies. He also expressed his fears about stepping away from the umbrella of protection at Linfen and entering the adult world as he prepares to go to college.
“I hate to leave the school that I care about and miss so much, and my classmates who treat us like my sisters and brothers,” Hu wrote. “I had to leave them, however, because I must fulfill my pledge. I must enter college, realize my dreams, and repay all those people who care for me and love me.”
AHF President Michael Weinstein recently wrote a reply to Hu’s letter, congratulating him and recounting how he was moved by the love and dedication of the school’s staff when he visited it eight years ago. “It is a testimony to your strength of character and the staff of the school that you have made it through and that you are now embarking on receiving a higher education. I am so happy that these opportunities exist for you and that you have such a strong desire to pursue them,” Weinstein wrote.
Linfen is currently home to 35 students ranging in age from 8 to 21 – most of them are orphans. The school was AHF’s first partner project site when it started work in China in 2006.
“The school has been receiving AHF’s generous support since 2006. I can say without it, the school couldn’t be this successful and students would be suffering,” Linfen Principal Guo Xiaoping said. “Eleven years later, I’m so grateful to witness these kids becoming grownups with AHF’s help.”