On Wednesday, the Baiyun District People’s Court in the southern city of Guangzhou heard the case of an HIV-positive man suing his former employer for discrimination.
This the second legal action that the plaintiff, a 27-year-old man who has asked to be identified as Ming, has brought against the company, a quasi-governmental food inspection organization.
In June, the Guangzhou Labor Personnel Dispute Arbitration Court ruled against Ming’s initial claim challenging his termination. His employer had cited a defunct 1991 stipulation of the implementation measures for the Law on Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases, requiring the isolation of HIV carriers. That document was revised in 2004, and the requirement was removed. Nevertheless, the labor arbitration court ruled that the employer had followed protocol, prompting Ming to take his case to court.
During Wednesday’s hearing, Qiu Hengyu, Ming’s lawyer, called HIV and AIDS medical expert He Haolan to the stand to explain basic medical practice in the treatment of HIV, stating explicitly that people living with HIV can work normally. “It’s crucial to give medical and scientific knowledge of HIV and AIDS in front of the judge and the inspectors in court,” Qiu told Sixth Tone.
The company had asked Ming to take indefinite leave and later failed to renew his contract based on the allegation that it was unsafe for someone who is HIV-positive to work with food. Qiu entered into evidence a catalogue of diseases deemed hazardous to food safety issued by the National Health and Family Planning Commission (NHFPC); it does not include HIV.
During Wednesday’s hearing, the defendant’s arguments were based on the 1991 version of the implementation measures document, said Qiu.
“This is unbelievable,” Ming told Sixth Tone in a phone interview after the hearing. “The revised law has been in effect for over 10 years, yet the discrimination against us still exists ‘legally.’” The court has not announced when it will reach a verdict.
On Dec. 15, Ming sent a letter to Li Bin, director of the NHFPC, the government body that issued the measures on the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases. In the letter, he invited Li to appear in court to explain whether HIV-positive people need to be treated in isolation. Li was not in court on Wednesday.
Calls to the court on Wednesday by Sixth Tone went unanswered.
Ming had also sent the NHFPC a letter asking for clarification on the official stance toward isolation in the treatment of HIV. The NHFPC replied that quarantine is no longer a requirement and that patients undergoing treatment for HIV must have access to equal rights in medical care, employment, education, and other areas. In Guangzhou, isolation during treatment has not been required of people living with HIV since Jan. 1, 2005.
According to China’s Regulation on the Prevention and Treatment of HIV/AIDS, adopted in 2006, no entity or individual may discriminate against people with HIV or AIDS.
Ming was not at the courthouse on Wednesday. He is training for a new position with a privately owned biopharmaceutical company. He has not told his new employer that he is HIV-positive.
(Header image: VCG)