March 22, 2005
On Monday, authorities in China's Yunnan province announced they will require hospitality industry workers to take annual HIV tests, Xinhua News Agency reported. The mandatory free tests are meant to control HIV's spread and help get those infected into timely treatment, said Wang Yinsheng, a Yunnan AIDS Prevention Center official.
The testing rule would apply to employees of hotels, bathhouses, beauty salons, nightclubs, and other entertainment venues that play a role in China's sex industry. Those testing positive for HIV or other STDs would be denied a certificate of good health, without which they could not legally work in the hospitality or service industries. Xinhua said those infected would be fired; however, Wang said health officials would not insist that infected workers be fired -- they could instead be transferred to jobs involving no public contact, Wang said.
Though the UN strongly supports voluntary HIV testing, Yunnan's mandatory testing rule "is a worrisome development," said Joel Rehnstrom, UNAIDS country coordinator in Beijing. Mandatory testing was tried several years ago in Thailand and was found to be much less effective than condom promotion, he said.
UNAIDS is forwarding its concerns about such testing to government authorities, said Rehnstrom. "We're encouraged by the overall attention of the government to raise attention to AIDS. But we also want to make sure that the best possible policies are put in place."
Yunnan borders Southeast Asia's drug-producing Golden Triangle and has the second-largest number of registered AIDS cases, after Hennan province. Yunnan has also adopted robust AIDS control measures, including condom and clean-needle promotion, and creating AIDS monitoring and treatment centers.