HIV/AIDS ban for bathhouses

Published: October 15, 2013

A draft regulation on the public bathing industry released by the Ministry of Commerce, which forbids people with HIV/AIDS to enter public bathhouses, has triggered uproar.

According to the draft announced on Saturday, public bathhouses should post conspicuous signs reading that people with HIV/AIDS should not enter the venue, as well as those with venereal diseases and contagious dermatoses, which have been banned for years. 
Services put under the policy include public baths, foot massages and spas. The draft also stipulates that any public bathing service provider who violates the regulation will be warned by local commerce authorities, or could be fined for as much as 30,000 yuan ($4,911).
The draft seized the attention of Net users soon after being published. A survey conducted by Sina Weibo showed that more than 70 percent of the 23,300 respondents as of late Monday considered the ban necessary to ensure public health, with 20 percent opposed to the draft, claiming that it is unfair and might deepen social discrimination against HIV/AIDS carriers and add public fear over the virus.
"HIV is only transmitted through unprotected sex, contaminated blood transfusions and from mother to child during pregnancy," Yu Fangqiang,  director of Just For All, a Nanjing-based NGO that focuses on anti-discrimination for HIV/AIDS, told the Global Times Monday, adding that the odds of people catching HIV by public bath was small.
The China Rainbow Health Organization, a Beijing-based HIV/AIDS prevention group, sent an open letter to the Legislative Affairs Office of the State Council and the commerce ministry Saturday, asking for a revision to the draft to prevent possible discrimination, reported the Xinhua News Agency.
Hedia Belhadj, China country coordinator for UNAIDS, said Monday the organization was concerned by the provision, and called for it to be removed, reported AFP.
Some people also questioned the practicality of such a regulation, saying that it will prove to be useless.
An employee who declined to be named at Beijing’s Xiedao Resort, which provides spa services, told the Global Times that there are no ways for them to check whether a consumer has venereal diseases, hypertension or heart disease, let alone HIV/AIDS.
"The bans could only be followed by self-discipline, because it is not possible for us to ask our customers to show their health assessment forms," the employee said.

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