Man sues Chinese city officials for alleged HIV discrimination, report says

BEIJING (AP) — A municipal court in central China has accepted the country's first lawsuit alleging work discrimination because of HIV status, state media reported Tuesday.

The China Daily newspaper said a court in Anhui province's Anqing city accepted the case Monday. The plaintiff, who was not identified by name, alleges that the city's education bureau denied him a teaching job after he tested positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, the paper said.

After ignoring or demonizing people with AIDS for much of the 1980s and '90s, China's authoritarian government has taken a more compassionate line on the disease and combating its spread in recent years. But people with HIV and AIDS still face discrimination when seeking education and work.

The China Daily said the man passed the written test and interviews for the job but was denied the position after a required health screening showed he was HIV positive. The man's lawyer, Zheng Jineng, told the China Daily that his client is seeking the job he applied for and no compensation.

"I hope the case can draw the public's attention and help protect job seekers against any kind of discrimination," Zheng was quoted as saying.

The paper said the trial is scheduled to begin in two weeks.

The HIV virus that causes AIDS gained a foothold in China largely due to unsanitary blood plasma-buying schemes and tainted transfusions in hospitals. Health authorities say sex has overtaken drug abuse as the main way HIV is transmitted.

The report did not say how the man was infected.

AIDS was the top killer among infectious diseases in China for the first time in 2008, a fact that may reflect improved reporting of HIV/AIDS statistics in recent years.

Government statistics from 2009 showed that there were 319,877 Chinese confirmed to be living with HIV-AIDS, though Health Minister Chen Zhu has said the actual level of infections is probably near 740,000.