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China to Make Rules to Protect Privacy of Hepatitis B Carriers
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A Chinese health official said Friday that China will take new steps to protect the privacy of hepatitis B virus (HBV) carriers.


"We will make detailed regulations to prevent the carrier's personal information from being leaked," Hao Yang, deputy director of the disease prevention and control department under the Health Ministry, said in an interview on the central government website.


All medical service providers should keep HBV carrier information private, Hao urged.


China's current laws and regulations on prevention of infectious diseases set out punishments for hospitals and medical personnel who deliberately leak private information about infectious disease patients or virus carriers.


HBV carriers and patients are often discriminated against in university enrolment, employment and in their daily lives.


Some Chinese medical experts reckon that as many as one tenth of the Chinese population, about 130 million, are HBV carriers, but the Health Ministry has provided no confirmation of this figure.


Hospitals and the Ministry have been advised to send medical examination results directly to HBV carriers in line with international practice, Hao said.


China's newly issued regulations on the prevention of AIDS set out concrete measures for hospitals and health officials, Hao said, adding that similar measures should be instituted for HBV.


Liu Danhua, deputy director of the training and employment department with the Ministry of Labor and Social Security who also joined the interview, revealed that the draft employment promotion law will contain articles making it illegal for an employer to refuse to hire infectious virus carriers.


Liu admitted that the existing government policy document concerning the protection of HBV carrier's employment rights is not legally binding.


A law is needed to punish employers who discriminate against HBV carrier applicants, he said, adding that the draft employment promotion law is currently under discussion and could be passed this year.


According to the World Health Organization, hepatitis B is preventable with safe and effective vaccines that have been available since 1982.


In many developing countries, people are infected with HBV during childhood, and 8 to 10 percent of people in the general population become chronically infected.


HBV is transmitted by contact with blood or body fluids of an infected person in the same way as HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.


(Xinhua News Agency July 14, 2007)

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