Despite Law, China's HIV Patients Suffer Bias
January 14, 2003
Although China has strict laws prohibiting discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS, many patients identify intense stigma, not illness, as their No. 1 problem. For every national law that prohibits discrimination, there is a local ordinance that, for example, prevents people with HIV from marrying freely, or from swimming in public pools. Police have a tendency to seize patients' businesses; doctors reveal the status of patients to employers; and surgeons refuse to operate on HIV patients.Adapted from:
In Guangzhou (Canton), seven HIV-infected people who sought to live collectively have spent the past four months fleeing from one location to the next. No landlord has been willing to take their money; no neighborhood has welcomed them.
Thomas, the group home's founder, got the idea for starting it while hospitalized in Guangzhou. Almost dead when he entered the hospital, Thomas recovered thanks to the $1,000-a-month drug regimen he was lucky enough to be able to afford. He now buys generic drugs from India via the Internet, at a cost of about $75. During his illness, he befriended many poor HIV patients and vowed to help them. He launched a Web site and thought about starting a drug fund, then realized many of his new friends had a much more basic need: a place to live.
Thomas rented a house in a quiet village outside Guangzhou in August. But the group was forced to move after suspicious locals called police and Thomas admitted the group's purpose. They rented a second home, but its neighbors also demanded the landlord evict them. On Dec. 1, the residents moved into an apartment in a neighborhood populated by migrant workers; here many adults share housing and strangers come and go, providing cover.
The local hospital has asked for the residents' help in counseling newly diagnosed patients. But while they would like to help, the residents say they are afraid such work would draw attention: Their current landlord is unaware they are HIV-positive. Thomas has thought of suing over the discrimination, but fear of further exposure keeps him from doing so.
New York Times
01.14.03; Elisabeth Rosenthal