China: Killer Inspires Drive Against Hepatitis Bias
January 16, 2004
Zhou Yichao, rejected for a public servant job in Jiaxing because he tested positive for hepatitis B, killed one official who denied his application and seriously wounded another. The plight of Zhou -- now on death row -- has inspired a national movement against discriminatory hiring practices and lack of legal redress.
More than 120 million people in China -- about 10 percent of the population -- are chronic carriers of hepatitis B. Many, like Zhou, show no symptoms and should not pose a threat to co-workers. Hepatitis B is spread through the exchange of bodily fluids and cannot be contracted through casual contact such as shaking hands. Hepatitis B can lead to liver failure and death. More than a million people die from it every year, about a third of them Chinese.
Hepatitis B is incurable but preventable with a vaccine. The Chinese government is stepping up efforts to immunize newborns and gradually reduce the overall infected population. As China begins to pay more attention to the plight of HIV/AIDS patients and public health in general after last year's SARS outbreak, hepatitis is starting to inch toward the forefront of public debate.
Zhang Xianzhu, another recent college graduate rejected by a state employer after his hepatitis B test, filed the country's first discrimination lawsuit against the government. "I wanted to do something for this community," Zhang said. "I did it because there are so many people like me locked out of jobs and rotting in their little dark corners of the world. We face a crisis of survival."
"We are talking about people driven by the power of despair," said a hepatitis B carrier who would not reveal his name for fear of jeopardizing his job. "Without work, how can we survive? Society has to do something to reduce the social pressure and preserve our basic human rights."
Los Angeles Times
01.08.04; Ching-Ching Ni
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This article was provided by U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update. Visit the CDC's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.