China’s mandate to hospitals reveals persistent discrimination against HIV/AIDS patients

By HHR editorial assistant Kathy Wang

Agence France Presse and other outlets report that the Chinese Ministry of Health has issued a mandate ordering all hospitals to provide HIV/AIDS patients with proper care. The mandate was issued after a lung cancer patient was denied hospital treatment because of his HIV/AIDS status. This incident, one of several documented incidents of hospital discrimination against HIV/AIDS patients, spurred China’s Vice Premier Li Keqiang to publicly endorse the Ministry of Health’s mandate and support proper medical treatment for HIV/AIDS patients.

The Associated Press also reports on the issue, focusing on the “myriad of inequalities that plague Chinese society” regarding disease. These inequalities especially impact HIV/AIDS patients. According to the article, Chinese hospitals have refused to perform surgery on HIV-positive patients because they fear viral spread or damage to their reputations.

HIV/AIDS networks have also conducted a number of surveys revealing that Chinese hospitals have turned away dozens of HIV/AIDS patients. While activists have lauded the government’s support for their cause, they also point out that accountability and compliance is low because there are no serious repercussions for failure to follow the law.

In a follow-up, the Atlantic looked at public blog responses to the Ministry of Health’s mandate, finding much anger directed toward HIV/AIDS patients. Respondents voiced concern over HIV/AIDS patients’ concealment of their status in order to gain medical treatment, calling their actions “malicious […] selfish and despicable,” comparing them to “HIV-carriers who use needles with their blood to stab passers-by to infect them on purpose” because of the risk of spreading disease.

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Associated Press: Chinese AIDS patients fight hospital rejections