Peng Liyuan, wife of Chinese President Xi Jinping and World Health Organization (WHO) goodwill ambassador for tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS, speaks during a ceremony in Geneva, Switzerland, Jan. 18, 2017. At the invitation of WHO Director-General Margaret Chan and UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe, Peng Liyuan on Wednesday attended the ceremony hosted by the WHO to renew its appointment of her as goodwill ambassador for tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS and to present her awards for her outstanding work. Peng was first appointed this role in 2011. (Xinhua/Xie Huanchi)
China's First Lady Peng Liyuan on Wednesday spoke of how honored and humbled she was to receive an international award for her humanitarian work in the global response to HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.
UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibé presented Peng with the UNAIDS Award for Outstanding Achievement at a ceremony held in her honor organized by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization (WHO) in Geneva, Switzerland.
The WHO also renewed its appointment of Peng as Goodwill Ambassador for Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS. Peng was first appointed to the role in 2011.
"This is a great honor and I am deeply humbled," Peng said on accepting the award. "A caring heart is our best weapon against AIDS - we can save lives if we take action. We must succeed and we will succeed."
Peng has been working on the prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis for more than 10 years and has advocated for a stronger response to the diseases at major international events, including at meetings of the Group of 20 and the United Nations General Assembly. In 2015, Peng collaborated with the Organization of African First Ladies against HIV/AIDS in Johannesburg, South Africa, speaking out on key issues critical to ending AIDS by 2030. She has also been a key supporter of the China-Africa Children Summer Camp that hosts children orphaned by AIDS from both China and Africa.
"Professor Peng has helped to open a national conversation around HIV in China that has spread empathy and compassion for people affected by HIV," said Sidibé. "She is a true champion for the most vulnerable, especially children affected by HIV, and has helped to create an environment for children to not just survive, but thrive."
According to a statement from UNAIDS, the work of Peng and other prominent advocates has made an important contribution to the scale-up and improvement of services to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV around the world. These efforts have contributed to more than halve the annual number of new HIV infections among children globally since 2010.
Progress has also been made in ensuring that children living with HIV have access to treatment.
In 2005, fewer than 10 percent of children living with HIV around the world had access to antiretroviral medicines, but heightened awareness and improvements in diagnostics and treatment availability have ensured that around 50 percent of the 1.8 million children living with HIV had access to the life-saving medicines in 2015.
China has adopted multiple methods to fight against HIV/AIDS, including expanding the scope of HIV testing and treatment. In 2015, over 143 million people, or 10 percent of the population, were tested for HIV. In 2016, China's health authorities revised the guidebook on HIV prevention, recommending immediate treatment after a positive test result.
Guo Xiaoping, headmaster of Red Ribbon School in Linfen, North China's Shanxi Province, told the Global Times that Peng has visited the school several times and donated twice in her own name the sum of 500,000 yuan ($72,800).
Founded in 2004, 33 children who were born already infected with HIV are now living in the school. The children receive medical treatment, psychological counseling as well as education at the school.
Her influence has brought hefty donations from all walks of life, Guo said.
After Peng's visit to the school in 2011 when she dined with the students in the canteen, the school, originally founded and run by Linfen Infectious Diseases Hospital, has since been funded by the local government.
In June 2014, Peng wrote a letter to 16 students at the school, encouraging them to take the senior high school entrance examination.
Separately, Peng has also helped establish the Yuanyuan ("fulfilling dream" in Chinese) platform in Ruili, Southwest China's Yunnan Province to provide services for poor students who are HIV positive.
A Sina Weibo account, under the name of "Liyuanzhaji," has become a popular site where supporters of Peng can follow the whereabouts of the First Lady. The account has frequently updated Peng's activities from an up-close perspective.
An article posted by Liyuanzhaji said when some HIV-positive orphans from Fuyang, East China's Anhui Province, visited Beijing, Peng took them out to eat at a Peking duck restaurant and picked up presents for them personally.
One child, who goes by the name Haiyan, said Peng took her and others to visit Tiananmen Square and the Chairman Mao Zedong Memorial Hall. She said Peng had always cared for the children, bringing them new clothes and telling them the importance of reading, according to the article.
Peng has been supporting children who have been orphaned by HIV/AIDS for over a decade. When one of the girls Peng helped got married and later had a child, she sent Peng a picture of her newborn baby, which would otherwise have been impossible without Peng's efforts in fighting the disease.