People living with HIV/Aids in China are routinely denied medical treatment in hospitals, a UN agency said in a sign of ongoing discrimination despite recent progress.
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) uncovered HIV-related discrimination in China's hospitals and clinics via interviews with more than 100 people living with HIV, and 23 hospital managers and healthcare workers.
One 37-year-old man living with HIV, the virus that causes Aids, from the northern province of Shaanxi said he had huge difficulties getting treatment when he found a lump in his stomach.
"Each hospital advised that I should be hospitalised immediately for surgery, but when they heard that I was HIV-positive, none were willing to accept me. They asked me to go to the infectious diseases hospital," he said.
"That hospital did not agree to let me use the operating theatre. They said if other patients knew that an HIV person had used the operating theatre, it would badly influence the hospital's reputation."
According to Chinese authorities, at least 740,000 people have HIV/Aids in the country, out of a total population of 1.3 billion, although advocates for patients believe the real figure could be much higher.
Those living with HIV/Aids have long faced discrimination, but there has been progress as the government has started talking more openly about HIV prevention and control.
According to the ILO report, HIV-related discrimination in Chinese hospitals is triggered by two major factors.
Many general clinics systematically refer HIV patients to specially designated hospitals for infectious diseases. But they must only be sent there if they require treatment linked to HIV/Aids, not for an unrelated condition.
Hospitals in China are also primarily driven by profit, and the report said hospital management was sometimes worried that prospective patients would go elsewhere if they knew the hospital provided services for people with HIV.
The Chinese government has already identified this issue as an area requiring stronger policy implementation, the report added.
But the ILO called for better regulations and better awareness among hospital management about the rights of people living with HIV/Aids to access medical services.
(Sapa, May 2011)