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Discrimination Rife Against Carriers of Hepatitis Virus
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Hu Xin never intended to go for a pre-marital medical check-up, for she knew what would be revealed could drive Mr Right away.

Early last April, Hu and her boyfriend Yan Ming tied the knot. But a health check later revealed she carried the hepatitis B virus, which can lead to liver cancer. Everything then turned sour.

Her husband, so furious about Hu's apparent concealment of the truth, instantly filed for divorce. A local court recently approved the separation, but the case has again highlighted a growing trend of discrimination against people with hepatitis B.

In fact, such discrimination has become even more apparent in the workplace.

Hepatitis B is one of the most common diseases in China, with Ministry of Health figures revealing that about 10 percent of the 1.3 billion population carries the virus.

According to Pu Ying from China Medical University, the virus can attack the liver and cause lifelong infection, cirrhosis or liver cancer. "The virus is transmitted in body fluids, primarily blood and semen, but occasionally saliva as well," Pu said.

Inoculation, however, is convenient and cheap, about 39 yuan (US$5), according to Shenyang Disease Prevent and Control Center.

But there is a large misconception among people that the virus is spread through casual contact, which has in the past few years perpetuated a growing trend for people to openly discriminate against carriers, for fear of infection.

One hepatitis B carrier surnamed Zhang sued the east China's Wuhu Personnel Affairs Bureau in November 2003 after he was denied a government job because he carried the virus.

The district court later ruled that the bureau did not follow provincial standards when it said a man with hepatitis B could not be a public servant.

Zhang's case is common among job-hunters, with many potential employers demanding applicants take a Hepatitis B test.

Moreover, even people already employed are subjected to discrimination in the workplace. The Washington Post reported recently that one staff worker from a joint venture in east China's Jiangsu Province was ordered to quit because of the virus.

Experts have protested that the current labor law, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, race, sex or religious beliefs, was too vague to have any real clout.

In 2005, China lifted a ban that prohibited hepatitis B carriers from becoming civil servants.

Despite labor laws preventing discrimination in the workplace, hepatitis B carriers are barred from working in the food industry, beauty parlors and hotels, experts said.

(China Daily March 23, 2007)

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