September 28, 2011
Routine hepatitis B virus testing of potential employees and students in China remains widespread more than a year after the nation banned mandatory testing by businesses, governments, and schools, advocates say. Despite legal protections for people with HBV, numerous websites have sprung up offering "gunmen" for hire -- people who are not infected who, for $125-$300, will take the blood test for HBV-infected applicants.
"Their business is really good right now," said Yang Zhanqing, executive director of the Beijing Yirenping Center, an advocacy and legal services group that assists with discrimination claims.
An estimated one-third of people with chronic HBV worldwide live in China, about 10 percent of whose population is HBV-infected. Widespread HBV-related discrimination there is partly based on the mistaken belief that the virus is easily spread.
After disclosing her infection to a potential employer in 2005, Zhou Juejiang said she was told "they would discuss it with superiors and never responded." "My only choice seemed to be to return to my village and do farming, which was the only job that didn't require a medical checkup," said Zhou, who believes hiring a stand-in for the test would be immoral.
Some of the nation's top kindergartens keep out toddlers with HBV, Yang said. Even today, most companies still screen for HBV and reject those who test positive, advocates say.
"It affects everything," said Yang. "If they want to go to a hospital for something, they can't talk about it. If they want to get married, they can't talk about it. They can't tell their friends, or anyone else."
"It used to be that every lawsuit we helped with was groundbreaking," Yang said. "Now there are so many it's becoming normal."