The Secret of Their Lives

A little girl at the HIV group home looks out the front door to a sunny courtyard.

Most of the children here don’t know they are HIV+. It’s too risky.

Their teachers don’t know. Their neighbors definitely don’t know because if they did, they would have to move again. They’ve moved eight times in ten years, all 28 children. If their teachers knew, they would be isolated and discriminated against or even kicked out of their pricey private school — a school they attend because they don’t have to inform the principal of their disease.

Most of these children don’t even know about the disease in their blood, the disease that killed many of their parents, robbed them of their life in their villages and that was likely passed to them at birth.

They just know that they have strict rules to follow.

Absolutely no fighting. No rough housing. If they get a cut or a scratch, they have their own first aid kit. And they have Mr. Huang.

“The kids are happy now,” Mr. Huang says, his face worn and tired, his spiky, graying hair hinting at his age.

When children pass through the living room of the apartment, they stop to grab his hands or talk to him and his eyes soften as he greets them lovingly.

“They are too young,” Mr. Huang says. “They don’t understand their fate. But as they get older, they will learn. The discrimination will start. They will always have to keep their secret.”

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