Deng Haihua, director of the Information Office of the Ministry of Health, told China National Radio on Sunday that the halt to HB screening in employment is only the opinion of experts and it does not represent the official policy now.
Health authorities will stop screening for hepatitis B (HB) as a condition of employment to stop discrimination against millions in China who have the HB virus, healthcare professionals said.
The Ministry of Health is expected to soon require that health clinics across the country stop screening for HB, said Cui Fuqiang, a leading hepatitis expert with the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
"It helps to better protect HB-positive people, who can usually lead normal lives and don't infect others, from costly discrimination," Cui told the Chendu Evening Post on Saturday.
More than 100 million people in China are infected with the virus that causes HB, health authorities said.
HB can cause acute and chronic liver disease. Cui said clinics would continue to perform regular liver function tests.
Wang Zhao, vice-president of the China Foundation for Hepatitis Prevention and Control, said discontinuing screening for HB is more in line with international health screening practices.
"It's more reasonable to ask applicants for HB vaccination certificates," Wang said.
The World Health Organization (WHO) states that the HB virus is transmitted primarily through blood transfusions, contaminated syringes, sexual contact or childbirth.
Although the virus cannot be transmitted by sharing meals or working with a carrier, experts said discrimination still exists when it comes to marriage, school enrollment or employment.
A February survey found that 84 percent of multinational firms polled demanded that job applicants undergo HB tests, and that 44 percent said they would reject an HB carrier.
"With such a large applicant pool, we prefer to select healthy employees," said an employer in Chengdu in Sichuan province who did not want to be named.
Wang said such discrimination results largely from a lack of knowledge about the disease.
"It's unfair, particularly in a country with such a huge population with chronic HB," Wang said.
Liu Yuqing, a job applicant in Beijing who is infected with the HB virus, told China Daily he has been rejected twice by employers because of his medical condition. "I hope the new Ministry of Health decision can help with my job hunting," Liu said.
Still, to evade discrimination, some HB-positive job applicants reportedly ask or even hire HB-negative people to go through screenings for them to fool potential employers.
A law passed in 2008 bans employers in China from rejecting job applicants who suffer from the infectious disease.
Under a draft regulation approved by the Ministry of Health on Thursday, kindergartens across China will not be allowed to deny entry to children who test positive for the HB virus.
(China Daily August 3, 2009)