by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
The Chinese government has floated a plan to bar HIV-positive people from using public baths, but it has drawn criticism from AIDS activists and the general public.
The proposal would require public bathing facilities to post signs prohibiting use by 'people with sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS, and infectious skin diseases.'
China's State Council, or cabinet, ordered the plan posted online for a public comment period, and it drew criticism from several quarters.
'There is no evidence that people can be infected with HIV in public bathhouses,' Wu Hao, of the Beijing Research Centre on Sexually Transmitted Diseases and AIDS, was quoted as saying by the Beijing Morning News.
'Apparently, the rule to bar HIV patients from entering public bathhouses is way over the top,' he added.
The paper also quoted an unnamed AIDS activist as being extremely disappointed with the draft proposal.
'Banning HIV patients from using public bathhouses and spas will only exacerbate people's misunderstanding, discrimination, and fear of HIV/AIDS, and will not help reduce the transmission of the disease,' the activist said.
The proposal has also been condemned by UNAIDS, the United Nations agency that monitors the global AIDS epidemic and coordinates international response.
According to AFP, Dr. Hedia Belhadj, the China country coordinator for UNAIDS, said the agency was concerned by the proposal and called for it to be scrapped. She said 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,' Belhadj told AFP.
The proposal also drew strong criticism from users of Weibo, China's Twitter equivalent.
One user said any decision about HIV patients using public baths must be based on scientific facts about the ways HIV was transmitted.
'In reality, many public bathhouses have already implemented the ban. The practice is discriminatory and must be stopped, and must not be institutionalized.
'HIV patients are already very vulnerable. They should be protected and respected. We must not further harm them with discrimination,' the Weibo user said.
NOT LIKE GAY BATHS
Unlike what are called 'bathhouses' in the U.S., Chinese bathhouses are actually public bathing facilities for people whose residences lack individual bathrooms.
According to Chinese government figures released in 2012, China has 430,000 HIV-positive residents, but the United Nations has said that the real number could be 620,000 to 940,000.
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