HIV-positive man sues China

2010-10-13 11:02

Beijing - A Chinese court on Wednesday heard the case of a man who alleges he was denied a job because he is HIV-positive, in the nation's first such discrimination case, his lawyer said.

The plaintiff, who has only been identified by his alias Xiao Wu, filed the suit against the education department of Anqing city in the eastern province of Anhui.

The lawsuit alleges city officials denied the plaintiff, a recent college graduate, a teaching job after a medical screening for illnesses including syphilis and hepatitis C revealed he had HIV, the virus that causes Aids.

The screening was conducted after he had already passed written tests and interviews, state media has reported.

"We're quite optimistic about this case... because this is the first case related to HIV and guaranteeing employment rights," lawyer Li Fangping said, adding that the judgment would only be announced after a 10-day period.

"If we lose the lawsuit, then the very authority of the Employment Promotion Law will be challenged because it contains a clear rule that (employers) cannot violate a person's employment rights because he or she carries a disease."

The plaintiff is asking for the education department to give him the job, state media has said.

Li said the department had defended itself by saying the decision was made "with the interests of the students and the public in mind".

740 000 Chinese positive

Aids has long had a heavy stigma attached to it in China, with sufferers forced to hide their condition. However, there have been recent signs that attitudes are changing.

The government has started talking more openly about HIV prevention and control in China, though people with HIV/Aids still encounter huge discrimination in employment, education and healthcare.

China says that at least 740 000 people are living with HIV but campaigners say the actual figure could be far higher.

The head of UNAids, Michel Sidibe, warned last year that 50 million people in the country were at risk of contracting the Aids virus, mainly through unprotected sex or the sharing of needles.

Despite signs of openness, the hassling of some independent campaigners and organisations has nevertheless continued.

High-profile activist Wan Yanhai, whose group helped uncover a major tainted blood-selling scandal in the 1990s, fled to the United States with his family earlier this year because he said he feared for his safety.