The lack of common knowledge about hepatitis B in China was the cause of widespread discrimination suffered by the country's 120 million carriers, said a senior official with the Ministry of Labor and Social Security on Thursday.
"Many people believe they can be easily infected by carriers," Yu Faming, an official responsible for employment and training with the ministry, told a hepatitis B positive graduate, who had faced frequent rejections from prospective employers.
"In fact, common daily contact with hepatitis carriers like having dinner or talking is safe, and a lot of people just don't know that," said Yu, calling for a public awareness campaign.
"The virus is mainly transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids such as contaminated blood and semen, shared needles and mother-to-baby contact," he said.
The ministry also warned employers nationwide against discrimination in a notice on its website, www.molss.gov.cn., on Wednesday.
Employers are prohibited from rejecting job applicants or dismissing employees on the grounds that the job seekers are infected unless the nature of the job might help spread the virus, the notice said.
Medical institutions should also try to protect the privacy of carriers, it said.
Though showing no symptoms and posing no threat to co-workers, most hepatitis B carriers, almost one tenth of the total population, suffer discrimination at work and in society.
(Xinhua News Agency June 1, 2007)