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A Long Battle To Recognise the Plight of Chinese HIV and AIDS Sufferers
South China Morning Post
by Dr. Karen Lee*
January 13, 2015

Two recent cases have highlighted the plight of Chinese living with HIV or Aids, who still face tough social stigmas.

More than 200 residents of a Sichuan village "voted" to oust an eight-year-old HIV positive boy, dubbed Kun Kun by the media, in early December. His grandfather was among those who voted to cast him out.

Kun Kun's migrant worker parents reportedly abandoned him when he was diagnosed in 2011. Banned from school and shunned by fellow villagers, he spent his time roaming the streets. "Nobody wants to play with me", China Daily quoted him as saying.

Separately, on December 28, Beijing News reported authorities had seized five people for allegedly sending six HIV carriers to harass residents to make way for a redevelopment project in Henan province. Styled as an "Aids demolition team", they put up threatening posts, damaged windows and even brandished blood-filled syringes. Aids patients have reportedly been hired to intimidate people in the poverty-stricken province for a decade following an Aids epidemic caused by rampant blood-selling in the 1990s.

In January 2011, the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and China's Centre for Disease Control and Prevention jointly issued a report on HIV-based employment discrimination in China. It highlighted the so-called physical examination criteria for recruitment of civil servants, a national policy that disqualifies those with sexually transmitted diseases including HIV and Aids from becoming civil servants.

According to Tianxiagong, an NGO serving people with disabilities, hepatitis, HIV and Aids, national policy violates various laws including the Employment Promotion Law and the Regulation on the Prevention and Treatment of HIV/Aids. The latter, in particular, protects the rights of people living with HIV/Aids in the realms of education, marriage, employment and medical treatment.

Increased rights awareness has led to a rise in HIV-based discrimination lawsuits.

In August 2010, an Anhui provincial court became the first to agree to hear an HIV-based job discrimination case. In that case, a job applicant sued (albeit unsuccessfully) the local education bureau for denying him a teaching post on the grounds of his HIV-positive status.

A modest breakthrough came in December 2012 when a complainant received the nation's first compensation award for employment discrimination on the basis of HIV infection. After initially filing the claim in Jiangxi province, the aspiring teacher later settled with the local education bureau in exchange for a 45,000 yuan (HK$56,900) payout.

Yet, the going will remain tough for people living with HIV/Aids as long as the government refuses to align the national recruitment policy with existing anti-discrimination laws. With increased media attention and promised official assistance, let's hope Kun Kun will grow to see a fairer society.

*Dr Karen Lee is Assistant Professor in the Institute of Education's department of Social Sciences

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