She cares for others as much as for herself. Chinese AIDS activist Liu Ximei has a big heart, great optimism and a seemingly endless fighting spirit. ‘Humans will always fight until the last day of their lives,’ she says.
In the 1990s, a terrible public health scandal hit China. Millions of poor farmers were encouraged by the government to sell their blood for money. But the medical equipment was contaminated with HIV, and many of the donors and recipients were subsequently infected. In Henan Province alone, more than 300,000 people contracted AIDS.
One of them was Liu Ximei. When she was a 10-year-old farm girl, her head was badly injured when her long hair was caught in a wheat harvesting machine. In the hospital, she received an infected blood transfusion.
When in 2004 Liu Ximei became aware that she was HIV positive, she was devastated. ‘I didn’t care at that point,’ she later said in an interview. ‘All I wanted to do was die at home.’ But as she experienced how AIDS patients in China are widely discriminated and ostracised – for example when applying for jobs and even in hospitals – she became determined to do something about it.
Liu started a support group for AIDS patients and dedicated herself to helping them with things like doctor’s visits and the complicated bureaucracy that comes with reimbursements for expensive medication. She also opened her halfway home ‘Ximei’s House’, where AIDS patients can rest, eat and get other help.
However, the Chinese government wants the Henan AIDS scandal to be covered up. They closed down Ximei’s House and placed Liu under permanent surveillance. Incredibly, this hardly puts a dent in her ability to stay hopeful and positive. ‘No matter how they work against me, I will continue to do what I do,’ she says in the beautiful documentary Ximei, produced by Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei. ‘Even though I’m poor and have AIDS, all I can do is be happy,’ she says. ‘Each day alive is happiness. There is hope, each day of life brings hope.’ Liu Ximei’s inspiring presence can be witnessed at the festival, where she will be a special guest.
Ximei was shown at the Movies that Matter Festival 2020.