China plan to ban HIV patients from public baths comes under attack

UN urges Chinese government to scrap the proposal

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The Independent Online

A proposal by the Chinese government to prevent HIV patients from making use of public bathhouses has been attacked by campaigners, the UN and members of the public as discriminatory.

The proposal orders public bathhouses in the country to display signs banning “people with sexually transmitted diseases, Aids and infectious skin diseases,” the BBC reports.

China's State Council has posted the proposal online as part of a public consultation.

Aids activists have strongly criticised the controversial measure. Speaking to the Beijing Morning News, Wu Hao, from the Beijing Research Centre on Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Aids said, “There is no evidence that people can be infected with HIV in public bathhouses.”

“Apparently, the rule to bar HIV patients from entering public bathhouses is way over the top,” he is added.

Users of the social networking site Weibo, China's answer to Twitter, have strongly voiced their objections to such a policy.

One user said that the decision to bar HIV patients from using public bathhouses must be based on scientific facts about the ways in which HIV was transmitted.

“In reality, many public bathhouses have already implemented the ban. The practice is discriminatory and must be stopped, and must not be institutionalised.

“HIV patients are already very vulnerable. They should be protected and respected. We must not further harm them with discrimination,” the user wrote.

Hedia Belhadj, the China coordinator for the United Nations Aids agency (UNAIDS), said the body was concerned by the provision and called for it to be removed, according to the Agence France-Presse news agency.

Ms Belhadj said there was no risk of transmitting HIV in a spa or bathhouse setting.

“UNAIDS recommends that restrictions preventing people living with HIV from accessing bath houses, spas and other similar facilities be removed from the final draft of this policy,” Ms Belhadj told AFP.

There are also users of the site who agree with the proposed ban. One Weibo member said that that HIV patients should be discouraged from using public bathhouses or that they should check whether they have any open wounds before entering.

UN estimates put the number of people in China infected with HIV at between 620,000 and 940,000, significantly higher than the Chinese government's own figures which put the total at 430,000.

Between 146,000 to 162,000 are believed to have gone on to develop Aids.