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Suzhou First to Clarify AIDS Patients' Rights
Suzhou, a city in Jiangsu Province, recently introduced Measures to Control and Prevent AIDS and VD in the area. The local regulation, the first of its kind in China, clearly stipulates the rights and duties of HIV/AIDS patients. Now, when the legitimate rights or interests of an HIV/AIDS sufferer, or their families, come under attack or are discriminated against by society, legal protection can be sought.

Equal Rights for Education and Employment

According to the Measures to Control and Prevent AIDS and VD in Suzhou, AIDS patients, HIV carriers and their family members have equal rights to education, employment and privacy protection. Article 23 of the Measures stipulates: HIV/AIDS victims and their family members should not be discriminated against, and will have the same rights to education, employment, health care and to participate in social activities. The rights of sufferers’ children to education and employment shall also not be compromised. The name, address, and private information of sufferers and their families shall not be published or broadcast. Social institutions will be requested to show due care and concern to these people, and provide medical aid as necessary.

At the same time, the regulation also stipulates the duties of the HIV/AIDS victims to society. Patients must follow the advice of their doctors and obey the instructions of the Disease Control Department. In addition, the regulation stipulates that people shall receive HIV tests as part of their health examinations before marriage and during pregnancy. This is also the first time such mandates have been introduced in China.

Wang Beijing, director of the law office to the First Hospital Attached to Peking University, recounted that the Regulations on AIDS Monitoring and Management, published by the State Council in 1987, and the Law on Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, employed in 1988, make clear that any discrimination or publishing of HIV/AIDS patient’s private information, such as names, address and telephone number are strictly forbidden. However, in reality, these two regulations only provide protection of HIV/AIDS patients’ rights in principle. There are no details on how to protect their rights, making it difficult to ensure the HIV/AIDS victims’ civil liberties are in fact defended.

Director of the Suzhou Public Health Bureau, Wu Zhanren, who took part in drafting the Measures, says that the incidence of AIDS throughout the world is still on the rise. Many citizens do not have adequate knowledge of the disease and consequently lack the necessary protection. The current methods of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS are weak and ineffective. Some illegal mountebanks have falsely advertised cures for the disease, greatly disrupting the market for potential treatments. Deputies from the People’s Congress, in Suzhou, and the Suzhou Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference have suggested strengthening the management of HIV/AIDS through legislation many times before. It has taken two years for the Measures to come into effect after extensive consultation of relevant laws and regulations including the Law on Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, Regulations on Management of Medical Institutions and the Law for Doctors.

Seeking Legal Protection Against Discrimination by Society

Statistics show that from when the first HIV/AIDS victim was identified in China in 1985, to the end of 2001, 30,736 people have been infected with the disease. The number of AIDS patients currently stands at 1,594, of whom 684 patients have died. These patients and their family members have been treated as great scourges on society for a long time.

Two instances are still fresh in Wang Beijing’s mind. In the early 1990s, a man was found to be infected with AIDS when he took the medical examination before entering a college in Dehong Dai Autonomous Region, Yunnan Province. A debate ensued on whether or not he should be allowed to enter the university in Kunming. Opponents believed that it would be difficult for the Health Department to monitor and treat him, while others believed that every citizen should have equal rights to education. Although he is an AIDS patient, he should not be deprived of his basic civil rights.

A doctor in Hebei Province became infected with HIV/AIDS while working for a construction company in West Asia. He was asked to move and his child was requested to change a school based on information leaked by some doctors. Finally, the problem was resolved by the government. “Because there were no laws or regulations to ensure the rights of HIV/AIDS sufferers, patients and their family were treated unjustly,” Wang says.

Director Wu Zhanren says that according to the Measures, if an individual or organization contravenes a person’s or his/her family’s right to education or employment because of HIV/AIDS, the patient can now use relevant regulations from either the Labor Law or Civil Law to protect their legitimate rights and concerns. At the same time, they must also bear responsibilities. For example, if a person found to be infected with HIV/AIDS refuses treatment or monitoring or attempts to take revenge on society in any way, he/she would be considered in severe breach of the law.

Regulations to Curb the Spread of HIV/AIDS Through Pregnancy

Progress has been made by clarifying the rights of HIV/AIDS sufferers and their families through government regulations. Director Wang Beijing believes that the protection of an HIV/AIDS victim’s rights is a basic premise for human dignity which should be provided by our nation for our society. Not all HIV/AIDS patients are infected due to unwholesome behavior. Blood transfusions and pregnancy are also ways of contracting the disease. Some AIDS patients are inculpable. It is necessary for the government to draft laws and regulations to ensure the rights of HIV/AIDS victims. The regulations made by the Suzhou government are a tribute to current day law. The health examinations before marriage and during pregnancy are important steps in safeguarding the health of new couples and their children. This requirement will also assist in effectively curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS through pregnancy.

(china.org.cn by Wu Nanlan, October 25, 2002)

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