Turning to the Law in War on HIV and AIDS

Zhang Feng

Legislation is desperately needed to curb HIV/AIDS from further spreading in China, experts say.

The number of HIV carriers living in the country is currently estimated at 500,000 or more, and that number is expected to double within a decade.

To help stop the deadly disease from afflicting even more victims, the State Council recently organized a symposium to discuss prevention strategies and possible legislation related to HIV/AIDS.

Speaking at the symposium, officials from the Ministry of Health, the organization responsible for leading the fight against HIV/AIDS, clamored for tough and effective legislation that would be reflected in regulations strictly enforced by government administrators.

Legal experts added that a special law devoted to HIV/AIDS prevention measures should be also instituted.

The Ministry of Health has already begun drafting a special regulation on the management of HIV/AIDS prevention.

Shen Jie, director of the ministry's Infectious Diseases Division, said the regulations will be released and put into effect soon.

Some legislative experts are joining in the fray by appealing to add a bill to the amendment for the present criminal code to punish people who intentionally infect others with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Such people would, under the new amendment, be considered guilty of willful and malicious injury.

At present, the criminal code states that people who are infected with sexually transmitted diseases but still engage in illicit sexual activities, such as prostitution, are subject to a fixed-term imprisonment of 5 years.

However, the law has not considered those infected with HIV/AIDS to be carriers of sexually transmitted diseases. This may soon change.

There is a growing voice in medical and legal communities that demands punishment for people who consciously and intentionally infect others with HIV.

But a comprehensive law on HIV/AIDS prevention has been slow in coming, said Chen Baozhen, director of the infectious disease prevention and supervision office under the Ministry of Health.

Legislative experts and officials have found the task of creating legislation daunting and complex. For example, there is currently some debate surrounding the question of whether or not the law should allow for the provision condoms or sex education to the country's population of illegal prostitutes and their visitors.

Many people are simply not ready to accept such measures, nor would they accept the distribution of condoms in hotels and universities, Chen said.

Further complicating the matter is the question of intentional infection. "How can the law confirm whether or not a HIV/AIDS patient infect others intentionally ?" Chen asked, pointing out that HIV/AIDS victims usually do not know they are infected when they engage in unsafe sexual activities, share needles, or give blood.

Any HIV/AIDS legislation will also inevitably lead to the problem of balancing public health considerations with patients' rights concerns.

(China Daily 10/06/2000)

In This Series

Experts Estimate 600,000-1 Million AIDS Victims in China

A Breakthrough Achieved in Anti-AIDS Medicine



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