China / Society

AIDS patients fight for equal employment opportunity

(Xinhua) Updated: 2012-12-02 03:21

NANCHANG - On World AIDS Day, Xiao Qi (pseudonym) is unsure if he will win a lawsuit against education authorities which allegedly turned down his job application because he is HIV positive.

In fact, his lawsuit against the education bureau of Jinxian county in east China's Jiangxi Province has yet been formally registered for handling after it was filed to a local court on November 26.

Nevertheless the young man is determined to pursue the legal battle. "Because this is not only for me, but for the whole group of people with HIV/AIDS who are vulnerable," he said.

Xiao Qi passed a teacher qualification examination in June with high scores. But his dream to be a teacher was crushed after he was found HIV positive in a mandatory pre-employment health check. The result was cited by the county's education bureau to disqualify him.

Defiant, Xiao Qi decided to defend his legitimate rights through the lawsuit. But he said he is not optimistic, although government regulations on HIV/AIDS stipulate that rights to employment, schooling and medical care of people living with HIV/AIDS and their family members shall by protected by laws.

Xiao Qi is not the first person in China to file a lawsuit due to AIDS-related employment discrimination.

Yu Fangqiang, director of an anti-discrimination organization Tianxiagong (meaning justices for all), said he had assisted three HIV carriers who suffered similar discrimination. But their lawsuits were either lost or just not handled by the court.

"After losing the lawsuit, they were forced to hide their HIV status to look for other jobs, or simply stay at home with nothing to do," said Yu.

China, with a population of over 1.3 billion, has an estimated number of 780,000 people living with HIV/AIDS. The number of reported cases of HIV/AIDS stood at 492,191 by the end of October, including 68,802 new cases this year, according to the Ministry of Health.

A 2010 report issued by International Labor Organization and the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention said people living with HIV/AIDS in China were faced with employment discrimination, such as mandatory testing, denial of job opportunities, forced resignations, and downgrading of job responsibilities.

HIV/AIDS sufferers fighting against employment discrimination face much tougher situation than people with other infectious diseases, as many people tend to give moral judgment to people with HIV, said Liao Qinghua, director of AIDS control and prevention at Jiangxi Provincial Center of Disease Control and Prevention.

Anti-AIDS volunteer Xiao Yu (pseudonym), who is also HIV positive, said he was once fiercely scolded by his former boss when he told the boss the truth on the phone. His boss called him "immoral" for being working at the company.

According to China's Regulations on HIV/AIDS Prevention and Treatment issued in 2006, the legal rights of people living with HIV/AIDS and their relatives should be protected, including the rights of marriage, employment, medical treatment and education.

However, health criteria for employing public servants in China stipulates that being HIV positive should be disqualified. This criteria is also adopted by many other employers, such as schools, public institutions and many state-owned enterprises.

Yu Fangqiang said abolishing such a criteria could be a breakthrough in fighting AIDS-related employment discrimination, just like what has happened in terms of hepatitis B, another contagious disease.

On February 10, 2010, Chinese ministries of health, human resources and education jointly released a circular, demanding the cancellation of the hepatitis B test during the health check for school enrollment and employment nationwide.

The move came after Chinese job hunters, including those seeking government posts, have long complained of discrimination on the grounds of hepatitis B.

On the eve of World AIDS Day, Vice President Xi Jinping visited a group of people living with HIV/AIDS at a community clinic in Beijing, where he said that HIV/AIDS is not terrible in itself, but what is really dreadful is the ignorance on HIV/AIDS and the prejudice against AIDS patients.

"All HIV carriers and AIDS patients are our brothers and sisters, and the whole society should light their life with love," he said.

The government should take the lead in eliminating AIDS-related discrimination through various ways, for example, establishing a committee on equal opportunities, said Yu Fangqiang.

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