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posted Friday, September 3, 2010 - Volume 38 Issue 36
Chinese court takes first HIV discrimination case
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Chinese court takes first HIV discrimination case

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

A court in Anqing, Anhui Province, China, agreed on August 30 to hear what is believed to be that country's first HIV discrimination case.

The plaintiff - who wishes to go by the alias Xiao Wu - alleges he was denied a teaching position by the Anqing education department because he tested positive for HIV.

According to China Daily, Xiao was tested for HIV, syphilis, and hepatitis C after he passed the written exam and interview for the teaching job.

Xiao's attorney, Zheng Jineng, told China Daily that his client wanted the education department to review its decision and give him the job he deserves.

Xiao himself could not be reached for comment.

"We understand he was under huge pressure and afraid of media exposure," Zheng told reporters.

The trial is scheduled to begin September 13.

"I hope the case can draw the public's attention and help protect job seekers against any kind of discrimination," Zheng said.

"The state already has laws and regulations forbidding discrimination against HIV carriers when they apply for jobs," Zheng told China Daily. "But the actual practice by some government departments and employers are in direct conflict with the laws.

"The fact that the People's Court has accepted the case indicates that the rule of law in China is progressing," he added.

The Anqing education department said the issue was one of student safety.

"As an education department, we believe that teachers should be responsible for students' sound development. Our decision not to hire him is to protect the students. We definitely won't change our minds," said a department staffer identified only as Fang.

Lu Jun, the director of the Beijing-based Yirenping human rights organization, told China Daily, "I think [Xiao] will win the case."

Xiao himself is reportedly not so sure.

He also told reporters that once his case is reported in the media, all of his friends and relatives would know he was HIV-positive. He said he could not predict how that would impact his future.

Xiao Wu was born and raised in rural Anqing. He said that he went through four years of college education in the hope of getting a decent job.

He did not reveal how he became HIV-positive.

Chinese officials say some 740,000 people in that country are living with HIV/AIDS.

Many face discrimination in employment, education and healthcare because of the stigma attached to the virus.

That attitude was illustrated by a mother interviewed by China Daily for their story.

Identified only as Yang, her 8-year-old son attends an Anqing primary school. Yang told China Daily reporters that she agreed with the education department's decision.

"I understand Xiao Wu's suffering but I don't want an HIV carrier to teach my son," she said.

China Daily is an English language newspaper published by the Chinese government. It is intended to be read by foreign diplomats, business people, and tourists, and therefore carries articles about social issues that would not typically appear in Chinese language publications.

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