When it comes to treating and counselling Aids patients, Guangdong is often overlooked by the national government, as well as overseas charities and other non-governmental organisations. Due to the province's juggernaut economy and growing base of wealth, cities like Guangzhou are often ignored in favour of poorer areas such as Henan and Guanxi, which attract more media attention in the scope of China's growing Aids epidemic. But for the past three years, Guangzhou native Thomas Cai has been working hard to change that perception and bring a message of hope to the city's growing number of Aids patients. 'The Aids situation in Guangzhou is quite serious,' says Mr Cai, 35, founder of Aids Care China, a private organisation that offers counselling and supplies generic antiretroviral drugs to sufferers. 'Guangzhou Number 8 Hospital treats most of the HIV patients in China,' he said. After being diagnosed with HIV and receiving treatment in Beijing, Mr Cai started a web page called Aids Forum through which he contacted people diagnosed with HIV or those who felt they were in danger of contracting the virus. In 2002, Mr Cai started visiting HIV-Aids patients in Guangzhou and founded a care home to take in those rejected by their family. During the past three years, Mr Cai and his four full-time staff have provided treatment, counselling and awareness programmes to patients and the public. A monthly newsletter and website helped the organisation raise US$6,000 in private donations last year. It has also received a US$25,000 grant from the United Nations Development Programme. Last year, the Guangzhou government approved a grant to support people living with HIV-Aids but, to date, no money has been allocated. There is still a lack of counselling and medical resources available to Guangzhou's HIV-Aids patients, according to Mr Cai. Since China adheres to international restrictions on copying drugs, the most up-to-date medicine is unavailable to most patients. Mr Cai admits that the biggest deficit in the fight against Aids is still awareness. The national Centre for Disease Control says that more than 1,000 people have HIV-Aids in Guangzhou. According to Mr Cai, between 70 and 80 HIV-Aids patients in Guangzhou are currently being helped by the Aids Care China forum. The social stigma attached to Aids keeps many from getting tested. 'The first question most people ask when they test positive is, 'Can I still live with my family?'' says Mr Cai. 'If society can accept and support these people, then they will take responsibility for themselves. This is the best way to stop this epidemic.'