Volunteers from the Wuhan Comrades Centre, a Chinese LGBT organisation, risk their own health to help others at the original epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak. They deliver life-saving HIV medication to patients unable to otherwise access it.
A team of volunteers from the centre collect the medication from nearby Jinyintan Hospital. They then discreetly deliver it to those in need. Visiting Jinyintan is risky because it is one of Wuhan’s best-known infectious diseases hospitals. From early in the crisis, it became a hub for treating coronavirus patients. Despite the risk of visiting a hospital packed with highly infectious patients, the volunteers from Wuhan Comrades Centre continue their work.
According to local experts, about 20,000 people in Hubei province live with HIV or AIDS. Although the Chinese government supplies free HIV medication for many patients, the coronavirus lockdown prevents them from leaving home to pick up supplies.
Because of the stigma surrounding HIV, many patients risk not taking the medication rather than divulge their status by asking local authorities to arrange a home delivery.
Huang Haojie is the director of the Wuhan Comrades Centre, the local LGBT organisation. He spoke to CNN.
“For some HIV-infected people, they would rather stop taking the drug than expose their identity and privacy.”
Because of that, Huang and 22 other volunteers work long shifts collecting and delivering medicine to those people.
“The number of requests we receive every day now is close to 200 people.”
Wuhan Comrades Centre volunteers work one day on, one day off
“We take turns to rest and work once every other day…
“About 10 staff members are in charge of receiving inquiries and calls from various people every day. Our phone receives calls from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. every day.”
One HIV patient who spoke to CNN said that at the beginning of the lockdown, he cycled to the hospital to pick up his supplies. In order to avoid police roadblocks, he went there after dark and via back streets.
However, when his medication ran out, and with the lockdown in full force, he could no longer go out without explaining why to local authorities.
Rather than do that, he risked his health by stopping his medication. Fortunately, he since made contact with the Wuhan Comrades Centre and they deliver his medication.
“They saved my life,” he said.
For the latest lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer (LGBTIQ) news in Australia, visit qnews.com.au. Check out our latest magazines or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and YouTube.