More than 200 villagers in China's Sichuan province have signed a petition asking authorities to "isolate" an eight-year-old boy with HIV, state media has reported.
Beijing Youth Daily, which ran a feature on the boy - known only as 'Kun Kun' - said that 203 residents signed an appeal requesting that the authorities carry out "preventative isolation measures by taking Kun Kun away from the village, and protect the health of the villagers and children".
The statement said that Kun Kun, who is believed to have contracted the virus from his mother during her pregnancy, "provokes fear among the community".
The newspaper also published a picture showing the boy, who lives with relatives near the town of Xichong, watching as his grandfather signed the petition at a special meeting on December 7. It said that he then "raced home, climbed into bed, and laid there wordlessly".
The village's party secretary Wang Yishu told the paper: “Everyone pities him, he's innocent and after all he's just a child. But the fact that he has Aids is too scary for this village. We don't know what to do with him.”
Other villages are reported to have expressed fears that their children would "catch Aids" by coming into contact with the boy - and one called him a "time bomb".
The paper said that the boy does not go to school, and spends his days playing in the woods. He has reportedly set his own home on fire, as well as grass piles and the village oil well. He is quoted as saying: “Nobody wants to play with me, so I just play by myself."
Kun Kun's grandfather told another newspaper that he and his wife were elderly and unwell, and "have no way of taking care of this child".
The case has sparked tens of thousands of comments on Weibo, China's instant messaging platform.
“This has to do with many people lacking knowledge, and the crux of the matter is there needs to be more education to avoid more such situations,” said one user.
Officials are now reportedly planning to "educate" the villagers, as well as looking for an organisation to take the boy in.
In recent years the Chinese government has tried to combat discrimination against those with Aids and HIV. In August, two passengers with HIV sued a budget Chinese airline for refusing to let them board a plane.
The World Health Organization estimates that there are about 800,000 patients with the virus in China.Reuse content