By Michael Evans
New regulations being drawn up in Guangdong would ban HIV positive applicants from being hired as teachers, attracting outrage from anti-discrimination advocates.
According to the proposed rules made public on Sunday, applicants for teaching jobs would be disqualified if they test positive for HIV and/or six other sexually-transmitted diseases during a mandatory physical exam.
A previous draft extended the ban to applicants with high blood pressure, serious shortsightedness, disabilities and facial paralysis. These were ultimately removed, but a prohibition on applicants suffering from rheumatoid arthritis was also left in.
Critics of the proposed ban argue that HIV positive teachers would pose no risk to students, as there would be virtually no opportunity to transmit the disease in the classroom.
However, nearly 44 percent of 330 internet users in an online poll voted against HIV carriers working as teachers, saying that small children who were not aware of HIV prevention measures could be infected through bleeding wounds.
HIV discrimination remains a serious issue in China, where hospitals often refuse treatment to HIV positive patients. The South China Morning Post reports that Guangdong’s controversial new regulations are not unprecedented:
HIV carriers have brought at least four anti-discrimination lawsuits against the education authorities in the provinces of Anhui, Guizhou, Jiangxi and Sichuan after they were disqualified from working as teachers because of the disease.
The plaintiffs have lost two of the cases, another was rejected by the courts and the fourth is going through mediation.
China had over 492,000 HIV/AIDS cases reported last year, though government estimates put the total number of cases at 780,000, according to the China Daily.
Whilst HIV discrimination is an unfortunate dilemma in many countries, such official prejudice is particularly cruel and arbitrary in China, considering that millions of people in rural areas of the country were infected with HIV during the 1990s through participation in a state-run blood collection program in which contaminated equipment was regularly reused.