An innocent teenager imprisoned by AIDS

HE LOOKS no different from an average 14-year-old, except perhaps he is exceptionally good looking with his deep eyes and dark complexion. He also walks with a limp.

Not unlike other teenagers, he loves computer games and Nintendo, and hates books, although he has more time to play than an average student.

Being a haemophiliac who contracted the deadly AIDS virus through blood transfusion in a Government hospital, Ah-ming (not his real name) is a social outcast. He does not go to school.

In his first interview since testing HIV-positive, Ah-ming told the Sunday Morning Post how his life had changed. The teenager, who named fishing as his favourite hobby, also told us about his dreams.

''I would like to get on a yacht and go fishing in the deep sea,'' he said. ''I have seen the Governor with his family on their yacht off the Chinese University while I was fishing at the pier. I would like to go on board.'' There are also films he would like to see, like Jackie Chan's City Hunter. He was thrilled when his mother, with whom he has developed an unusually close rapport for a boy his age, took him to see Michelle Yeoh and Anita Mui's The Heroic Trio. As he talked, he also nagged his mother for a Jacky Cheung CD.

One of the most important things for Ah-ming is how to have fun - because not only is school out of the question but also work.

''I have worked part-time in a fast food restaurant before - for one day - but I could not handle it. I went home with a swollen arm,'' he said.

The seemingly trivial problem of a swollen arm can be a matter of life and death for haemophiliacs: it is usually a sign patients whose blood cannot clot are bleeding internally.

Ah-ming said he would like to work because ''staying at home is boring''. His mother, a factory worker, locks him up to stop him roaming the streets.

There are times when Ah-ming would stay out all night and he would sell his computer games when he ran out of money. His neighbourhood on Hongkong Island has a number of TV games centres for him to waste his money.

But the fun-loving youngster, who also finds karaoke a fascinating pastime despite being unable to afford a regular session, was visibly disturbed when asked what he knew of his disease.

Tears glistened in his eyes and he sighed before he could speak.

''I know it cannot be cured,'' were his first words, followed by a long silence.

''I know there is a while before they can discover a cure.'' When asked whether money could solve any of his problems, he shook his head: ''Money cannot cure me.

''I want to get jobs but I cannot because my employer may find out I have AIDS. And there are few jobs I can do.

''I want to learn some skills, such as becoming a decorator or a car mechanic, but mother said they were too dangerous and I could get hurt too easily.'' Asked to describe his mother, Ah-ming said: ''I know she worries about me a lot. I know she cries a lot. I see her crying. If money can solve her problem, I hope she will get money.

''She always said she had taken so much care to make sure I grew up properly.

''There was one time I hurt my lips and was bleeding severely but I refused to go into hospital. She stayed up for three nights to look after me.

''She thought her worst days of bringing up her haemophiliac child were over. But it seems all her effort is wasted.

''She is working but has to look after me and the whole family. I think, in one way or another, the Government should help her.

''My mother said there were only two people in the world who could help us: Mrs Elizabeth Wong Chien Chi-lien [the Secretary for Health and Welfare] and the Governor, Mr Chris Patten.

''She really wants them to help. She wants the Governor to get well soon so he can help us.

''My mother always meets social workers, but none of them are of much help to her. They talk a lot, but nothing practical happens.

''My mother wants me to go swimming in the morning so I can stay healthy for as long as I can, just like AIDS Foundation's Mike Sinclair who spends lots of time exercising.

''I would not mind doing that, but that will cost money and she will have to find time to take me to the club, meaning she will have to give up her job.

''She would not trust me going out on my own . . . I would not trust myself.'' He said he would also like to travel to a place where he could catch big fish. But he was unsure whether in his condition, when he had to always carry Factor VIII concentrate with him for treatment and make sure it stayed frozen, he could get on a plane without arousing suspicion.

When asked about his future, he said: ''My mother always tells me to go to hell when I am naughty . . . I hear it almost every day.'' As his mother looked on, tears began forming in her eyes.