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70% of People with HIV/AIDS Haven't Taken Test
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Recently the Committee of the HIV/AIDS Prevention and Control of the Hunan Provincial Government held a meeting on HIV. The spokesman Chen Xiaochun, who is also the Deputy Director-General of the Department of Health of Hunan, said that up until June 30 this year, there have been 4378 people with HIV/AIDS in Hunan. Hunan ranks as number 8 in China regarding the AIDS population. Of the 4378 people 826 are AIDS patients; 389 have died. The Hunan government is currently planning to offer a quarterly HIV/AIDS test for people employed as sex workers because AIDS spreads quickly among this high-risk group.

It is estimated that 70 percentĀ of the people infected with HIV haven't taken an HIV/AIDS test yet they are statistically confirmed as AIDS carriers. This indicates a huge potential population with HIV/AIDS. Most of this population belongs to high-risk groups: drug addicts and sex workers. The public has called for a nation-wide test to confirm infected people and to reduce infectious sources. The call has been echoed via the planned HIV/AIDS testing organized by Hunan Province authorities. In particular they wish to test sex workers. From their point of view, success depends upon targeting high-risk HIV/AIDS groups and curbing HIV/AIDS prevalence more effectively.

Although effective, selective HIV/AIDS testing that targets a particular place and group can be labeled as discrimination. Despite the fact that HIV/AIDS rates are significant among sex workers, the ratio of the AIDS patients to its working population remains low. Testing the entire population of Hunan sex workers to find a small percent of infected carriers reeks of disrespect and discrimination.

Equality goes hand in hand with respect. Legal history is also the history of freedom and equality. The enemy of equality is discrimination, and the law is a weapon to fight discrimination. When the rights and interests of the underprivileged groups are threatened, the government needs more than any other time to utilize legal, administrative and judicial power to help the disadvantaged.

Early in 1990, the United States of America adopted the Americans with Disabilities Act, a law applicable to people with physical or mental impairment, as well as those carrying infectious diseases. The Act forbids discrimination against them and stipulates that employers are obliged to assign such people work they are capable of, while providing all necessary conditions and facilities. If an employee is discovered as an HIV carrier, no one may disclose this information or it would be an infringement on his privacy and a legal violation. Even if this information is disclosed, as long as his illness does not affect his work competency, the employer cannot dismiss him and moreover, must provide the necessary conditions to prevent further infection. If the employer fails to do so, he or she will be severely punished.

In China, due to the incomplete legislation specific groups, such as migrant workers, still don't enjoy the legal rights urban residents have already received. Hundreds of millions of Hepatitis B carriers in China have to put up with discrimination. They are dismissed from workplaces under various excuses. Very few of them file and win discrimination lawsuits. Moreover, people with HIV/AIDS, a more serious disease, have even less hope of employment once their illness is disclosed via mandatory government testing.

HIV/AIDS will never be completely eliminated if people rely only on mandatory testing within certain occupations, a particular groups or even the general population. He Jinglin, an expert with UNAIDS affirmed, "A nation-wide test is not necessary. What we should do is to educate all our citizens about AIDS, just as we did regarding like Hepatitis B. We must improve the prevention and control systems regarding AIDS, especially in key regions and high risk groups." The government should not resort to legal measures and demand mandatory testing. Instead authorities should make greater efforts to educate the public concerning AIDS prevention and improve relevant public services.

(China.org.cn by Lulu, August 8, 2007)

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