Stigma in China Prevents HIV-Positive People From Accessing Services, South African Justice Cameron Says
Many HIV-positive people in China do not seek treatment because of HIV-associated stigma, and stigma also prevents many people from being tested for the virus, Edwin Cameron, a South African Supreme Court justice and HIV/AIDS advocate, said Thursday, Reuters reports.
Cameron said discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS is a "tragedy" because the Chinese government "has a very good treatment program" that includes no-cost antiretrovirals. According to Reuters, the stigma results from a widespread lack of understanding about how the disease is spread. A recent UNAIDS report that surveyed 6,000 people from six cities found that two-thirds of respondents would be unwilling to live with an HIV-positive person, that one-fifth would be unwilling to care for a relative living with HIV/AIDS and that nearly 10% believed they could contract HIV after working in the same room with an HIV-positive person.
Although between 35,000 and 40,000 HIV-positive people in China are receiving treatment, more than twice that number are in need of treatment but are unwilling to be tested or receive HIV test results because of fear of stigma, Cameron said. While it is illegal to discriminate against people living with HIV/AIDS in China, HIV-positive people are banned from some public facilities, such as gyms and bathhouses, and some jobs require HIV tests, Reuters reports.
There were 700,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in China in 2007, Reuters reports (Graham-Harrison, Reuters, 10/30).