An HIV-positive teacher has lodged an appeal against a district court ruling that said an education bureau in China’s Eastern Anhui province did not employ him after learning of his HIV status.
The young man’s lawsuit against the education bureau is the first alleged case of HIV-related employment discrimination to reach a Chinese court.
“I was not the first to be discriminated against for being HIV positive and I certainly will not be the last. But I will continue to strive for the rights of China’s 740,000 HIV-positive people,” said the man, surnamed Wu, after he lodged his appeal at Anqing People’s Court in Anhui Province.
He declined to give his full name out of fear of discrimination. The original trial was not open to the public and few people know of his HIV status.
Wu said that he had dreamed of becoming a teacher since he was a child, hoping the job would allow him to help his impoverished family in rural Anhui.
In pursuit of his dream, he served an internship at a private primary school, where he said the children had “adored” him.
After graduating from a college in Anqing and passing interviews, he was about to realise his dream when the city’s education bureau decided not to employ him because he failed the physical examination applicants are required to undergo.
Wu said he did not know he was HIV positive before the examination and that he has no idea how or when he contracted the infection.
He filed his suit against the bureau on 26 August for violating his right to a job and discriminating against him on the basis of his HIV status. The People’s Court of Yingjiang District in Anqing dismissed his claim in a ruling on 12 November.
In reaching its verdict, the court said: ‘The condition of Wu’s health disqualifies him from being a teacher and the Anqing education bureau’s decision not to employ him was lawful and consistent with the relevant regulations.’
Wu’s lawyer, Fang Ping, said: “The ruling sets a dangerous precedent. Eventually, it will prevent all HIV-positive people from having a job.”
The education bureau’s lawyer, Wei Guo, said: The Anqing education bureau did not discriminate against Wu and was merely abiding by the relevant regulations.”
Wu responded by stating that: “We can curb discrimination against HIV-positive people only with the support of the government and the legal system, which is what I seek to secure.”
A renowned Chinese AIDS expert, Dr. Zhang Beichuan, commented: “This case highlights the public’s poor awareness of how the disease is transmitted. The discrimination results from ignorance and panic. Wu has the support of all the experts and medical workers who specialise in AIDS in China. If Wu is a teacher, his students will not contract HIV from him because the virus is transmitted via birth, blood and sex.”
In a public letter, published ahead of World AIDS Day on Wednesday, Wu said: “Do not be afraid of people who are HIV positive. We can be teachers and we can do many other jobs just like everybody else. I beg society, do not forsake us.”
EI is encouraging all member organisations to observe World AIDS Day, on 1 December, and to continue challenging HIV-related discrimination and stigma.