The AIDS Walk: Promoting Public Service in China

China Development Brief, No.56 (Winter 2012)

中文 English

In this timely article, CDB Deputy Editor, Guo Ting, discusses the China AIDS Walk, a grassroots-organized public service event to call attention to discrimination against people living with HIV-AIDS. It will be held for the second time on the Jinshanling Great Wall on October 13, 2013.

During the 2012 World AIDS Day, the World Health Organization (WHO) HIV/AIDS Prevention Goodwill Ambassador and Ministry of Health’s AIDS Prevention spokesperson, Peng Liyuan, participated in related events and called for ending discrimination against those living with HIV/AIDS, as well as greater compassion for HIV/AIDS patients. Since the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (hereafter, The Global Fund, 全球基金) ended its financial support to China, many social programs targeting HIV/AIDS have been facing resource constraints. Peng Liyuan’s appearance, following the 18th National Party Congress (held in November 2012), is a hopeful sign for grassroots organizations hoping to garner more domestic financial and policy support.

In addition, some HIV/AIDS prevention groups have worked diligently this year to expand the space for local fundraising and advocacy. On October 13, 2012, more than 100 volunteers wearing white shirts gathered at the Jinshanling Great Wall, located on the outskirts of Beijing to carry out an AIDS Walk, which has been on-going over the last six months. The project was organized by the Beijing Gender Health Education Institute (北京纪安德咨询中心) and borrowed its model from the experiences of AIDS Walks in the West, while at the same time experimenting with more localized models of fundraising, government cooperation, and media coverage.

Participatory Public Welfare

From 2010 to 2012, The Gender Health Education Institute’s Wei Jiangang, Li Guoxin, and Wei Tingting were selected by the Aibai Cultural Education Center  (爱白文化教育中心) and the Los Angeles LGBT Center for the China LGBT Community Leaders Training Program (中国同志社群领导力培养项目). While interning in Los Angeles, they participated in a week-long Los Angeles-to-San Francisco AIDS Walk.  The Walk not only helped to raise funds but also brought the community together and promoted a model of public service based on equality and participation.

In 2010, Wei Jiangang took over as the Executive Director of the Gender Health Education Institute. He has been engaged in AIDS prevention work since 2003. Compared to professional project officers who take responsibility for the entire project, Wei prefers participatory public service activities that rely largely on community mobilization. In his opinion, this is the current trend in the development of the public interest sector. In recent years, there has been a growing interest among the public in public service, from supervising the use of funds to directly participating in programs. The public is becoming increasingly dissatisfied with simply standing on the sidelines and donating money. People prefer to hear stories about people close to them who are relevant to their lives, rather than scripted advocacy and propaganda. Participatory models of public service provide this opportunity. As for the AIDS Walk itself, it puts people in direct contact with those living with HIV/AIDS, thereby alleviating discrimination towards them. “If you don’t understand something, it is easy to feel negatively about it. But, after your friends participate, it’s easier to believe what your friends say and consider changing your discriminatory views,” Wei said.

The AIDS Walk’s primary goal is to mobilize public participation. Since April 2012, the AIDS Walk Project has worked in different communities, embassies, cultural centers, and high schools, to organize almost 20 different activities of varying sizes in China, involving a total of more than 10,000 people. But for those engaged in public advocacy to fight discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS, it has been difficult to change the public’s misunderstanding and discriminatory views by simply writing or talking about it. Thus each of the participants in the AIDS Walk gets involved in different ways, such as being a member of a fundraising group, donating financial support, participating in the Walk, or serving as a volunteer.

Fundraising teams consist of 1-3 volunteers and solicit donations from close friends, especially those who had previously donated to the AIDS Walk. Participants in the October Great Wall AIDS Walk consisted of teams that managed to meet specific fundraising goals (for student groups the target number was RMB300, while for groups of professionals, the target number was RMB500). Those unfamiliar with fundraising, or wanting a greater degree of participation in the event, can also choose to become an event volunteer. Once, a member of a fundraising group said to the manger of the AIDS Walk Project, Wei Tingting, “I feel so ashamed, I only raised a few hundred yuan.” A few hundred yuan is not a large number, but the money was made up of five- and ten-yuan notes collected from friends. “Once people start to give a little money, they’ll start to pay attention to what you’re doing. Consequently, even if someone only donates one yuan, it is still a positive step towards raising awareness of discrimination,” said Wei.

Bringing Advocacy into the Open

In recent years, some domestic LGBT groups have also organized other walk-style activities. In comparison, the AIDS Walk’s most notable characteristic is that it is not directed toward any specific community, but rather takes the form of open, public advocacy.

In order to carry out public fundraising and advocacy, the Gender Health Education Institute chose a public fundraising foundation with government-backing to serve as a partner1. They spent over a year looking before gaining the support of the China Foundation for Prevention of STDs and AIDS (中国预防性病艾滋病基金会). During their cooperation, project members often found that there were a prohibitive number of regulations, with a single matter requiring a long series of procedures and approval from various levels of government. Once the event had ended and there was a moment to reflect, however, the Gender Health Education Institute recognized that this official channel was crucial to the seamless execution of the event.2

The partnership with a public fundraising foundation enabled the organizers to take the AIDS Walk to universities and local community organizations in order to spread their message. Ambassadors from the British, U.S., Swiss and other embassies are willing to make appearances or give speeches because of the involvement of the public foundation (which lessens the perceived risk). Due to the foundation’s reputation, their activities often get full-page coverage in the mainstream media. This time, the AIDS Walk did not even invite any foreign media because the Gender Health Education Institute wanted to make a point of attracting coverage by the domestic mainstream media, and thereby getting the attention of the Chinese public.

In addition, the AIDS Walk invited several celebrities from the entertainment world to participate. Because Wei Jiangang attended the Shanghai Theatre Academy and has experience working in the entertainment industry, getting a hold of celebrities was not a big challenge. Moreover, bringing together people from the public service sector and celebrities is a winning combination for both sides. Celebrities though may choose not to support a public service event if it is not in their interest (and consider the risk involved with these events). With the participation of celebrities, the event also made the entertainment section of many news agencies and was able to reach a younger demographic.

As for why the China Foundation for Prevention of STD and AIDS chose to cooperate with the Gender Health Education Institute, Wei Jiangang believes the foundation felt the AIDS Walk had the potential to be an annual event. The model of public participation used by the organizers was also seen as a possible direction for the future development of public service in China. If the first year was successful and participants spread the word among their colleagues and friends, then the second year would attract even more participants and evolve into a positively reinforcing cycle, increasing participation on an annual basis.3

There is No Such Thing as Free Public Service

On December 1, 2012 marking World AIDS Day, the Gender Health Education Institute announced that October’s Great Wall AIDS Walk consisted of 45 teams from six nations, including the UK, the US and France, with a total of 120 participants. Fundraising teams gathered donations from 3,400 supporters, with total donations surpassing 160,000 yuan. The Chinese Foundation for Prevention of STD and AIDS served as the cooperating partner, and took 7 percent of the total funds raised as their management fee. According to Wei Jiangang, the foundation previously said it would not take a fee for managing the activity in its first year. He thought, however, that because the foundation needed to communicate between many parties, provided administrative assistance, and had to cover administrative overhead and personnel expenses, that taking a management fee was not unreasonable. Moreover, seven percent of 160,000 yuan was not a large amount.

Among the funds raised, a percentage was used to cover the Gender Health Education Institute’s administrative costs. For the greater part of this year, the organization’s personnel costs, as well as 20 promotional and volunteer fundraising events organized by Wei Tingting, have cost approximately 70,000 yuan. Despite the expense, these activities are public awareness campaigns that serve the dual purpose of both fundraising and advocacy. The expenses for some events are unavoidable. In addition, the Gender Health Education Institute also independently raised funds to pay for administrative fees from the Barry and Martin’s Trust, the Ford Foundation, the Suzie Wong Club, and other individual donations, collecting more than 40,000 yuan to pay for administrative expenses, as well as getting 20,000 yuan in material support from the condom manufacturer Pleasure More.

Looking ahead to the 2013 AIDS Walk, Wei Jiangang said that a valuable lesson from this year’s event was learning that they must approach companies early on for donations. This year, because they did not approach companies until mid-year, several large companies said that while they were interested in supporting the event, they had already finalized their annual CSR budgets.  In addition, due to budget constraints, the website containing information concerning fundraising details and costs, built by friends who donated their skills, did not appear online as early as desired. Although Wei Tingting often tried to supplement the data and renew details in a timely manner, she never felt satisfied. If they had been more effective in raising funds for the administrative costs, they would have designed a more sophisticated website to better get their message out to the public.

The HIV/AIDS Sector Looks Forward to More “Positive Energy”

At this year’s AIDS Walk on the Great Wall, many Americans paid for their own tickets to fly to China and participate in the event, but there was little involvement from domestic HIV/AIDS partner organizations. Wei Jiangang believes that the culture of participating in public service programs differs between China and the West, saying that the culture of participation in public service has yet to take root domestically. He also believes that the only way to achieve better results is for people to look more positively on the work done by others. Public service requires both criticism and support. One cannot simply offer negative criticism, but instead must increase their participation and cooperation in order for HIV/AIDS prevention groups in China to mature.

The differences between East and West are not only restricted to the culture of public service organizations but extends to other areas. Wei Tingting vividly recalls asking her Chinese friends for donations to the AIDS Walk and hearing their responses. Her friends said: “Oh, is this a reputable activity?” The first thing they thought about was the negative consequences. Their mindset made it easy for people to find excuses not to participate.  Yet when she spoke with her foreign friends, they had the opposite reaction: “Oh, really? Where is it? I want to go!” or: “It’s really great what you’re doing!” Western culture encourages people to try many things. The AIDS Walk is just getting started, and in future years it is likely to see improvements as well as setbacks.  Given the obstacles they face, grassroots HIV/AIDS prevention organizations need greater encouragement and support. To use a popular phrase, they need more people to keep up the “positive energy.”

  1. Editor’s Note: Most NGOs or “social organizations” in China, even the more than 450,000 currently registered with Civil Affairs, cannot engage in public fundraising. Public fundraising authority is invested in a small group of foundations known as public fundraising foundations which currently number just over 1,000. Almost all of these foundations have some kind of government background. However, NGOs like the Gender Health Education Institution are able to publicly fundraise by setting up a “special fund” through a qualified foundation. 

  2. Editor’s Note: The partnership with the Chinese Foundation for STDs and AIDS was critical not only for fundraising purposes but also for getting permission to hold large-scale, organized activities which are strictly controlled in China. 

  3. Editor’s Note: In 2013, the China Foundation for Prevention of STDs and AIDS decided not to continue its partnership. It felt the AIDS Walk involved too much work while attracting too little in donations. The Gender Health Education Institute then had to spend a number of months before locating a suitable replacement in the form of another public fundraising foundation, the China Population Welfare Foundation (中国人口福利基金会) which is working with the Institute on the 2013 events. 


2012年世界艾滋病日期间,世界卫生组织艾滋病防治亲善大使、卫生部预防艾滋病宣传员彭丽媛参与相关活动,呼吁更多人关爱、不歧视艾滋病病毒感染者和病 人。在全球基金停止在华资助,众多社区防艾组织面临断粮的情势下,彭丽媛在十八大之后的首次公开亮相对渴盼获得本土资金和政策支持的草根组织来说是一种希 望。
此外,一些防艾组织今年也在本土化筹款与倡导方面努力拓展空间。2012年10月13日,上百位身穿白T恤的志愿者齐聚北京周边的金山岭长城,使持续半年 的爱滋徒步活动达到高潮。这一活动由北京纪安德咨询中心主办,借鉴起源于西方发达国家的艾滋骑行,并在筹款模式、政府合作、媒体推广等方面做出许多本土化 尝试。
2010~2012年,纪安德咨询中心的魏建刚、李国鑫、韦婷婷,相继入选爱白文化教育中心与洛杉矶同志中心合作的中国同志社群领导力培养项目,他们在洛 杉矶实习期间,都参与了为期一周的从洛杉矶到旧金山的艾滋骑行活动,从这种既筹到资金,又能动员社区、宣传反歧视的参与式公益形式中得到启发。
2010年接任纪安德执行主任的魏建刚,自2003年开始接触艾滋病工作,相比专业人员全程负责项目执行的方式,他更喜欢以动员社区为主的参与式公益活 动。在他看来,公益发展的趋势也是如此。近几年来,越来越多的公众愿意更多地介入公益,从监督资金使用到直接参与项目,公众越来越不满足于仅仅站在公益圈 外捐钱。此外,相对照本宣科的倡导和宣传,人们更喜欢听与身边朋友相关的故事,参与式公益则给人们一个讲故事的由头和机会。对爱滋徒步来说,很多人会因为 自己的朋友与艾滋感染者的零距离接触,而不再对艾滋抱有歧视。“如果你对一件事不了解,很容易做出负面评价,但你的朋友参与后,就容易因为相信朋友而不再歧视。”魏建刚如是说。
动员公众参与,是爱滋徒步的首要目标。自2012年4月启动,爱滋徒步项目团队在不同社区、大使馆及文化中心、高校等举办大小活动约20场,参与者超过一 万人。但作为以公众倡导为目的的反歧视活动,简单做报告、宣讲,很难改变大众心中对艾滋根深蒂固的误解与歧视。爱滋徒步的所有参与者按照介入层面不同,可 分为募款小分队、捐款人、徒步参与者、志愿者等群体。
募款小分队由1~3人的报名者自愿组成,她/他们的亲朋好友则是小分队的募捐对象,即爱滋徒步的捐款人;10月份长城徒步的参与者来自募款超过一定数额的 小分队(学生为300元,已工作人士为500元);如果觉得募款时机尚不成熟或者愿意更多、更深入的参与活动,还可以选择成为志愿者。曾有筹款小分队的成 员对爱滋徒步的项目负责人韦婷婷说:“好惭愧,我只筹到了几百块。”——几百块不是很高的数目,但这些钱都是五块、十块地从身边的亲朋好友中“要”过来 的,“当人们开始给你一点钱,他们就会开始关注你所做的事。因此,哪怕筹到一块钱,也是一次反歧视理念传播的过程。”韦婷婷说。
为了实现公开募款与倡导,纪安德选择找一家政府背景的公募基金会合作。他们花了一年多的时间,才争取到中国预防性病艾滋病基金会的支持。在合作中,项目人 员也常常会觉得体制内的规矩很多,一件事情往往要经过多层级的审批手续。但活动结束后回首,这一官方平台是活动顺利进行不可或缺的要素。
有公募基金会的招牌,为爱滋徒步走进高校、社区直接宣传,提供极大便利;英国、美国、瑞士等国使馆的大使愿意出席、发言,多少也缘于基金会的参与。由于公募基金会的名头,活动更多的登上了国内主流媒体的版面——这次爱滋徒步没有邀请一家境外媒体,因为纪安德希望更多吸引国内主流媒体以及他们背后庞大的中国 公众的关注。
此外,爱滋徒步还邀请到许多娱乐圈明星的参与。由于魏建刚上海戏剧学院读书和娱乐圈工作的经历,联系明星并不是太难的事情,何况明星与公益结合,原本就是 双赢。但对明星来说,如果公益活动不是特别名正言顺,他们也不一定支持。有了明星的参与,活动因此登上许多媒体的娱乐版,从而更多影响到追星的年轻人们。
据今年12.1艾滋病日当晚纪安德公布的数据显示,本次爱滋徒步组成募款团队45个,来自英、美、法等六个国家共120人参与了10月份的长城徒步,募款 团队先后向3400人次筹款,总额超过16万元。中国预防性病艾滋病基金会作为合作方,将提取筹款额7%的管理费。据魏建刚介绍,基金会曾表示活动第一年 可以不要管理费,但他觉得,基金会要做很多沟通、管理的工作,有行政成本、人力支出,提取管理费很正常。何况16万元的7%,并不是一个多高的数字。
筹得的款项中,还有一部分成为纪安德的行政费用。大半年来,机构的人力成本以及韦婷婷前前后后做的二十场宣传和志愿者招募活动,花了约七万多块。但这些活 动,每一次都是公众意识倡导行动,作为一个承担筹款与倡导双重作用的项目,有些活动开支省不得。此外,纪安德也独立为机构行政费用做了筹款,他们向贝利马 丁基金会、福特基金会、苏西黄及其他个人募来四万多块做行政开支,还获得了安全套生产厂家倍力乐价值两万元的物品资助。
展望2013年的爱滋徒步,魏建刚说一大经验就是要早点向企业筹款,今年因为年中才去找,一些大企业如杰士邦虽然很有兴趣,但早已定下全年的CSR预算。 由于预算有限,今年爱滋徒步的捐款明细和成本花费在朋友友情支持建设的网站上显示不够及时,虽然韦婷婷时常手动补充数据,争取做到及时更新,但她始终觉得 不够安心。如能顺利筹到更多行政预算,他们打算做一个更有技术含量的网站,让公众明明白白看公益,更放心地捐款。
今年的爱滋长城徒步中,很多美国人自费飞过来参与活动,而一些国内的艾滋伙伴机构却很少参与。魏建刚觉得,中国与西方的公益参与文化存在不同,本土公益组 织的参与文化尚需培育,人们应当更积极的看待别人做的事,未来才能变成希望的模样。公益需要批评,也需要支持,不能只站在批评的消极的角度看问题,多参 与、多合作,中国的防艾组织才能共同成长。
不仅公益组织文化,整个东方文化传统也和西方差别很大。韦婷婷印象深刻的是,她和国内一些朋友聊起爱滋徒步,请朋友帮忙募款时,朋友说:“哎呀,你们这个 靠谱吗?”——她们想到的首先是消极的结果,这种情绪上的暗示很容易让人止步不前。而当她和国外的朋友说起时,对方的反应往往是:“哎呀,是吗?在哪里? 我要去!”或者说:“你们做的太棒了!”西方的文化传统鼓励人们多尝试。爱滋徒步刚刚起步,未来有可能做得更好,也有可能遇到挫折。在当下艾滋领域面临的 困境前,草根组织更需要的是鼓励和支持,用一个流行的词来说,就是需要更多人传递“正能量”。

CDB Deputy Editor

Translated by Kyle Shernuk

Reviewed by James Evans

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