China plans to ban
HIV-positive people from spas, hot springs and public bathhouses, provoking
condemnation Monday from the United Nations' AIDS
agency and outrage from campaign groups.
The proposed Ministry of
Commerce rule is the latest instance of enduring discrimination against HIV
carriers in the world's most populous country.
China bans those with the
virus from becoming civil servants, and HIV-positive people face the
possibility of losing their jobs if their employers discover their status,
while some have sought hospital treatment only to be turned away.
The draft regulation posted
online by China's State Council, or cabinet, orders spas and similar
establishments to prominently display signs prohibiting "people with
sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS and infectious skin diseases".
Hedia Belhadj, China
country coordinator for UNAIDS, said the organisation was concerned by
the provision, and called for it to be removed.
She pointed out there is no
risk of transmission of HIV in a spa or bathhouse setting.
Policies should be revised
that restrictions preventing people living with HIV from accessing bath houses,
spas and other similar facilities be removed from the final draft of this
policy," Belhadj told AFP.
She urged that "any
other policies preventing people living with HIV from accessing public or
private services also be revised".
UNAIDS estimates that there
are 780 000 people living with HIV in China.
Chinese campaign groups
blasted the proposed rule.
"The only value of
this draft law is in discriminating against those with AIDS," Yu
Fangqiang, director of the Nanjing-based anti-discrimination NGO Justice for
All, told AFP.
His organisation and five
other domestic NGOs are seeking to collaborate on a response, he added.
"This law must be
changed. All the HIV NGOs know this new rule, and they want to fight it,"
China only lifted a
long-standing ban on foreigners with HIV entering the country in 2010, although
in recent years top officials have begun speaking more openly about HIV
prevention and control.
Discrimination remains an issue
The country has also made
strides in expanding access to free antiretroviral drugs for HIV-positive
But discrimination against
those with HIV/AIDS remains an issue at hospitals, workplaces and other
establishments across the country.
In January a draft
regulation in south China's Guangdong province would have banned people with
HIV and other sexually-transmitted diseases from becoming teachers. Officials
dropped the provision in April after an outcry from rights groups.
Most attempts by
HIV-positive people to sue over discrimination have failed.
But, in the first judgement
of its kind, earlier this year a plaintiff who had been denied a teaching job
after it was revealed that he was HIV-positive was awarded 45 000 Yuan ($7 400)
from a county education bureau in east China's Jiangxi province, state media
It marked a milestone that
activists have cited as a cause for hope in future legal battles.
Campaign groups and
international organisations say that widespread stigmatisation of those with
HIV in China has complicated efforts to curb its spread.
"stigmatisation and discrimination against people living with HIV is
essential in the national response," Belhadj said.