Beijing gives local governments 30 days to implement anti-HBV discrimination measures

China’s ministries of health, education and human resources on 10 February ordered local governments to implement new policies designed to eliminate discrimination against people with HBV, the virus that causes hepatitis B.

Local governments were given 30 days to ban the use of HBV blood tests in job recruitment and school entry examinations. Moreover, they were instructed to actively monitor the ban and punish violators. For example, medical practitioners who reveal someone’s HBV status to a third party will either be warned, suspended or have their operating license revoked.

The use of HBV tests by employers to screen out job applicants with HBV has been widespread and commonplace in China for well over a decade. See the new report by HBV activist group Yirenping: Understanding and Challenging Employment Discrimination against People Living with HBV in China.

In the wake of pressure from groups like Yirenping, and several high-profile lawsuits by the victims of HBV discrimination, government officials stated last year that the HBV test would eventually be abolished, but Wednesday’s joint-notice is the first concrete action taken so far.

The ministries’ Notice on Further Regulating School and Employment Entry Tests Protecting the Employment and Education Rights of People with the Hepatitis B Surface Antigen is undoubtedly a positive step. But, as the Yirenping report points out, many employers and medical institutions willingly collude to get around existing legislation designed to protect the rights of people with HBV, so these new policies will have to be vigorously enforced if they are to make any real difference.

There are an estimated 130 million people with HBV in China today, the vast majority of whom are not or are only mildly infectious, and do not pose a risk to their co-workers or fellow students.
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