China. Helping the helpless

Fr Luis Ruiz SJ, with several years of experience behind him in Macau with the handicapped and mentally ill, was on a visit to leprosy centres in Hunan province in southern China when the provincial government invited him to set up an HIV/AIDS centre, offering him support if he did so. Nothing daunted, Fr Ruiz took up the challenge with the help of some religious sisters and a Maryknoll priest, and in April the AIDS Caring Centre was inaugurated in Hongjian, a port situated on the upper Yuan River in Hunan province. The centre is located in the compound of a drug de-toxification and rehabilitation establishment. Initial difficulties notwithstanding, the new centre got off to a start with a ceremony in which Fr Ruiz spoke of the importance of love and a celebratory Mass. Many testified to the unselfishness of priests and sisters who tend the three terminally ill patients currently admitted. Plans are afoot to take in 17 more patients, all in the last stages of the illness, as has been the practice in the leprosy centres with which Fr Ruiz is associated. Two doctors who have specialised in HIV/AIDS treatment will visit the centre periodically, and will be on call in case of emergencies. Fr Ruiz plans to visit Yunan in May, where he has been called to help a village that has many HIV infected children. [HL40505] Fr. Luis Ruiz SJ,