ILO launches report on discrimination against people with HIV within healthcare settings in China

Beijing, 17 May 2011 - The International Labour Office (ILO) for China and Mongolia has released today a report about discrimination faced by people with HIV when accessing medical services in China.

News | 17 May 2011

Beijing, 17 May 2011 - The International Labour Office (ILO) for China and Mongolia has released today a report about discrimination faced by people with HIV when accessing medical services in China.

Research for the report, Discrimination against People Living with HIV within Healthcare Settings in China, was jointly carried out by the ILO and the National Center for STD and AIDS Prevention and Control (NCAIDS). It draws upon interviews with 103 people living with HIV (PLHIV), and 23 hospital managers, healthcare workers and health administrators, and provides insight into HIV-related discrimination in hospitals and clinics. The issues faced by individuals include difficulty in accessing medical services and discriminatory treatment by healthcare workers as well as denial of surgery and other forms of care.

A 37-year-old HIV positive man from Shaanxi Province told the researchers what happened when he found a lump in his stomach. “Each hospital advised that I should be hospitalized immediately for surgery, but when they heard that I was HIV positive, none were willing to accept me. They asked me to go to the infectious disease hospital…” he said. “The hospital did not agree to let me use the operating theatre. They said if other patients knew that an HIV person had used the operating theatre, it would badly influence the hospital’s reputation.”

This was confirmed to be a common situation within Chinese hospitals. One doctor from a general hospital in Beijing recounted how he had seen patients being refused treatment first hand. “A patient with a severe eye infection and HIV came in recently for treatment” he recalled, “Our hospital refused to treat him because our procedure is to refer HIV patients to infectious disease hospitals. One can only assume that the man went blind, even though his condition could have been easily repaired…”

The report recognizes that China has made progress on the issue. The 2005 Regulation on the Prevention and Treatment of HIV/AIDS protects the right of people with HIV to access healthcare. However, there are several challenges to implementation, including healthcare workers’ low awareness of HIV and fear of work related infections as well as poor implementation of universal precautions that would enable healthcare workers to work safely. There is also considerable confusion surrounding the roles and responsibilities of general hospitals versus infectious disease hospitals.

According to Ann Herbert, Director of the ILO Office for China and Mongolia, “Access to healthcare is a fundamental human right that should be enjoyed by everyone regardless of their HIV status. Although there are challenges achieving this in China, training healthcare workers on HIV and non-discrimination alongside consistent implementation of universal precautions will go a long way towards improving quality of care and protecting the rights of people with HIV.”

The Chinese government has already identified access to healthcare by people with HIV as an area requiring stronger policy implementation. On 31 December 2010, the Notice of the State Council on Further Strengthening HIV/AIDS Response was issued, which requires action be taken to “Enhance protection of rights and interests to promote social harmony” in order to “eliminate discrimination and protect the legitimate rights and interests of PLHIV and their families in health seeking”.

The report was released at an event held by the ILO, the China Alliance of People Living with HIV and Marie Stopes International at the Beijing Hilton (Dongsanhuan). The event was open to the media and was also be attended by people living with HIV, healthcare workers, government officials, international organizations and NGOs.

For more information please contact:

Dr. Richard Howard
ILO Senior Specialist on HIV/AIDS for Asia and the Pacific
Tel: +662 288 1765

Ms. Wu Rulian
National Program Coordinator on HIV/AIDS and the World of Work
Tel: +86 10 6532 5091 ext 142