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China's ban of HIV positive people from bath houses draws criticism

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 15th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The nation of China plans to ban people who are HIV positive - the virus that causes AIDS from accessing spas, hot springs and public bathhouses. China posted a draft regulation online, ordering spas along with similar premises to display signs prohibiting "people with sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS and infectious skin diseases." The proposed ban has drawn criticism worldwide, in particular form the United Nations AIDS agency, UNAIDS.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Campaign groups have decried the move as the latest instance of discrimination against HIV carriers in China, the world's most populous country.

China has already banned those with the virus from becoming civil servants. HIV-positive people there face the possibility of dismissal if their employers discover their status. In other instances, those with the HIV virus have been turned away from Chinese hospitals..

China's coordinator for UNAIDS Hedia Belhadj says she was concerned by the proposed Ministry of Commerce rule, which was posted online by China's State Council. Calling for it to be removed, she pointed out there is no risk of transmission of HIV in a spa or bathhouse setting.

"UNAIDS recommends 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," she said.

Belhadj also urged that "any other policies preventing people living with HIV from accessing public or private services be revised."

Campaign groups have also spoken out against the proposal, which could affect as many as 780,000 people living with HIV in China.

"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 says. "This law must be changed. All the HIV NGOs know this new rule, and they want to fight it."

Fangqiang asked that his organization and five other domestic NGOs are seeking to collaborate on a response.

China lifted a long-standing ban on HIV-positive foreigners entering the country in 2010. In recent years, top officials have spoken more openly about HIV prevention and control.

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