From Nanchang to Lhasa – to Ride with AIDS 2017

“I want family members of other sufferers to see that nobody willingly gets sick, and that nobody should be abandoned by the world because of a particular disease.” Infected with AIDS, he takes action to spread the message about AIDS prevention and anti-discrimination.

His name is Liu Jiulong. He was diagnosed as having been infected with AIDS in 2007. In 2015, with the support of the Amity Foundation, he launched the project, ‘To ride with AIDS’ and for two consecutive years, he cycled from Nanchang to Beijing.

 ”At the beginning, there was a young person who was afraid of AIDS, who felt helpless and didn’t know what to do, but now he has changed. Now he is mature. He understands AIDS, is receiving treatment and volunteers in AIDS prevention projects.” says Liu Jiulong about himself.

This video features Liu Jiulong's journey in 2015

Liu was willing to organize events and share information about AIDS throughout his journey. In this way, he was able to teach people in many different places about AIDS prevention, and he called on society to care about those infected with AIDS, dispelling discrimination.

On May 9th 2017, he set out again, this time riding from Nanchang to Lhasa. He arrived in Lhasa on July 9th. Liu Jiulong was born in a small mountain village in Ganzhou, Jiangxi. He left junior high school to find work. Because he had never learned about AIDS prevention, he was infected with AIDS after having unprotected sexual intercourse. In March 2007, Liu Jiulong was diagnosed as being HIV positive. It has been ten years now.

Liu Jiulong and supporters outside of Beijing

At the beginning, he was gripped by fear, a sense of helplessness and not knowing what to do. This continued until 2008, when he learned about a person riding a bicycle all over the country to teach people about AIDS prevention. Although he hadn’t yet disclosed his diagnosis to others, he made a resolution at that time – “One day I will also do everything in my power to teach people everywhere about AIDS.”

In 2009, Liu Jiulong opened up about having been infected with AIDS. He became the first person in China to appear in the public media as having the AIDS virus. Liu began going to universities and to share and discuss the illness with others. Besides advocating and raising awareness, he served the community of those affected by AIDS, including visiting patients in hospitals in southern China.

Jiulong is repairing his bike at the roadside

In 2014, he resigned from his job in Ganzhou, and spent a week cycling from Ganzhou to Nanchang. “I wanted to tell everybody that, having taken medication for 6 or 7 years, my health was as good as anyone else’s.” The media supported him in this endeavour.

‘To ride with AIDS’ was launched on December 1st 2014, which was also World AIDS day. Amity Foundation supported a project called ‘Creating an AIDS/HIV friendly society’.  Liu Jiulong thought that this was a wonderful venture. He believes that what AIDS sufferers need is to be treated equally and not be seen as strange. And so he applied to run hi “Ride with AIDS’ project. The Amity Foundation agreed to support him.

Amity’s work in the area of AIDS prevention began in 1996. By the time, the general public knew very little about AIDS. The Amity Foundation cooperated with the Anglican Church from Australia and Hong Kong in establishing an AIDS prevention project in Yunnan. Liu Chang, responsible within the Amity Foundation for medical and public health projects, explains:  “Along with improvements in medical technology and the development of anti-virus medications, Amity got further involved in the work of AIDS prevention. Through the work with those carrying the AIDS virus and AIDS sufferers, we realized that their greatest challenge came from society. Stigmatization, discrimination, shame, denial, socially inappropriate actions – all these factors create a negative environment, which hinders those carrying the AIDS virus from proactively receiving treatment. It also means that they don’t access help provided by the government, organizations and other groups in a timely manner.

Amity's HIV/AIDS prevention work started in 1996. The Amity Foundation is working with local communites to build a HIV/AIDS friendly society, by empowering local communities through women groups (left) and organizing educational events (right)

Amity and partners are raising awareness for AIDS/HIV treatment and fighting discrimination through informational flyers

From 2015, the focus of Amity Foundation’s AIDS Prevention Project has slowly shifted attention from AIDS patients and AIDS carriers to creating a friendly environment in society. One way to support this aim includes the public awareness raising efforts of Liu Jiulong through his ‘To ride with AIDS’ campaign.

This year Liu Jiulong is supported by his mother

In 2015, ‘To ride with AIDS’ was launched, and Liu Jiulong rode from Nanchang to Beijing. On May 4th, 2016, Liu Jiulong and a cameraman set out from Nanchang in Jiangxi. They cycled 2,600km in 50 days. As they passed through 20 cities, they ran events in 32 places to spread knowledge about how to prevent AIDS and to combat discrimination. On June 22nd, they successfully arrived at their destination – Beijing.  In 2016, Liu Jiulong’s mother participated in ceremonies at the start and at the end of the ride. Asked about her participation by reporters, Liu Jiulong said: “I want family members of other AIDS sufferers to see that nobody wants to get sick, and that nobody ought to be cast aside by the world because of any particular illness.”

This year was the third ‘To ride with AIDS’ tour, again supported by Amity. “I feel that Liu Jiulong shows that his health is great and has fierce determination throughout every stage of the trip. He is also very positive: he fervently loves life and lives life to the fullest. His courage helps him to overcome.” says Liu Chang. She believes that Liu Jiulong uses actions to show others who are infected with the AIDS virus or suffering AIDS just how valuable life is. “By his actions, he shows us that he is also an individual with flesh and blood, and helps us realize that the community of people affected by AIDS are also ordinary people, worthy of admiration. As such, people should encourage them more and fear and discriminate against them less.”

On May 9th, 2017, Liu Jiulong set out from Nanchang. He travelled through Changsha, Chongqing, Chengdu and went all the way to Lhasa which sits at almost 4,000 metres above sea level. It took him 62 days. He arrived in Lhasa on July 9th.  

In all the cities he passed through, ‘To ride with AIDS’ liaised with Disease Control centres, senior high schools or other organizations active in charity work. They organized all types of activities to raise awareness of AIDS prevention. These included presentations at major universities, sharing sessions within the community, together with those carrying the AIDS virus and discussions with volunteers.

Liu Jiulong rides his bike from Nanchang to Lhasa

Actually, soliciting donations and distributing information about how to prevent AIDS through doing a ride like this has been done in other countries such as America for years now. However, in China, anxiety about the stigma and discrimination associated with AIDS has meant that many AIDS carriers are unwilling to participate in such activities. Liu Jiulong is the first rider in China ‘To ride with AIDS’. “I hope that taking on this personal challenge, i can help alleviate the suffering of people carrying the AIDS virus and who are so often neglected, misunderstood, feared and discriminated.”

Asked for plans for the future, Liu Jiulong says: “I hope that ‘To ride with AIDS’ can continue and include more distant places in China.  When it will change so, it will allow many others to participate.” Liu Chang, responsible for Amity Foundation’s medical and public health projects, also hopes that a second and a third ‘Liu Jiulong’ will emerge from ‘To ride with AIDS’. In this way, more people will be encouraged to participate in spreading information about AIDS and combating discrimination against those with AIDS.

Liu Jiulong with local supporters (left). After 62 days, he finally arrived in Lhasa (right)

For more information on Amity's AIDS/HIV work contact Liu Chang