BEIJING - “I don’t need people to care about me, and I don’t need special legal protection either. If I can live, I’ll live. If I can’t, I’ll die. But you've got to give me basic rights: the right to work and the right to see a doctor.”
These are the raw words of one patient, during a seminar about the Chinese legal system and AIDS– and the protection of human rights for AIDS patients, which was recently held at the Renmin University of China (RUC) School of Law.
According to a research paper released at the seminar, in comparison with international AIDS prevention policies, China puts more emphasis on prevention and control of the disease than on the protection of AIDS patients’ human rights.
The report found that China’s AIDS epidemic is severe. In regions where the rate of sexually transmitted diseases are highest, such as Yunnan Province in southwest China, the susceptible populations tend to spread this disease to other communities. Meanwhile, China’s existing policies and regulations are inadequate in protecting AIDS patients, particularly when it comes to their medical treatment, schooling and employment.
“As we found in our research, there are contradictions and conflicts between policies and regulations at all levels. For a number of policies aimed at protecting AIDS patients, there is a lack of actionable supporting policies. This means that some regulations are in effect empty and impossible to apply,” said Lin Jia, vice-dean of the RUC School of Law.
The report cites the case of the Board of Education of Anqing City, in the eastern Anhui Province, which was sued by an AIDS patient. This person had passed the teachers’ recruitment exams, but when the Anqing Board of Education found that he had AIDS, they decided not to hire him.
Although China’s AIDS Prevention and Control Act clearly stipulates that HIV-infected persons, AIDS patients and their families are free to enjoy equal marriage, employment, medical care and schooling rights, as the report showed, the violation of these rights are widespread.
The report, which was conducted in Beijing, Yunnan Province and Henan Province, detailed the different forms of discrimination encountered by those who are HIV-positive, such as barriers when applying for jobs that require a valid health certificate.
No support for migrant workers
The report also stipulates that, "Although AIDS patients are eligible for a minimal subsistence allowance, this allowance is so low that some of this population has to turn to crime."
Migrant workers with no registered addresses are not eligible for the subsistence allowance. By the end of May 2010, there were 7,652 reported HIV-positive persons/AIDS patients living in Beijing. Of this number, 74.3% did not have a Beijing home registration. Since this percentage was not fully integrated into the prevention and control system, not only does it risk exacerbating the spread of the disease, it also makes AIDS monitoring and prevention difficult.
“In many other countries, the care and relief policies for AIDS patients are a lot more advanced than in China,” said the report. As it pointed out, not only do America, Europe and South-East Asia have policies in place to protect AIDS patients’ human rights, the policies and regulations’ efficiency is much higher. Meanwhile, China is more concerned about the disease itself, and therefore discriminates against this population.
“We recommend that in the future, the government works with non-governmental organizations to improve the employment prospects of AIDS patients. The assistance provided to them should be done in a way that would make AIDS patients open to this help, including AIDS prevention publicity campaigns in new media,” the report said.