UN agency urges China to drop HIV spa ban

BEIJING (AFP) - The United Nations' Aids agency on Monday condemned a draft Chinese regulation to ban HIV-positive people from spas and public bathhouses, as campaign groups expressed outrage over the proposal.

The proposed Ministry of Commerce rule is the latest instance of longstanding discrimination against HIV-positive people in China.

A draft was posted online by China's State Council, or cabinet, and orders spas and similar establishments to prominently display signs prohibiting "people with sexually transmitted diseases, Aids and infectious skin diseases".

Hedia Belhadj, China country coordinator for UNAIDS, said Monday it was concerned by the provision and called for it to be removed.

She pointed out there is no risk of transmission of HIV in a spa or bathhouse setting.

"UNAIDS recommends that restrictions preventing people living with HIV from accessing bath houses, spas and other similar facilities be removed from the final draft of this policy," Belhadj told AFP.

She urged that "any other policies preventing people living with HIV from accessing public or private services also be revised".

UNAIDS estimates that there are 780,000 people living with HIV in China.

Chinese campaign groups blasted the proposed rule, which is open for public consultation until next month.

"The only value of this draft law is in discriminating against those with Aids," Yu Fangqiang, director of the Nanjing-based anti-discrimination NGO Justice for All, told AFP.

His organisation and five other domestic NGOs are seeking to collaborate on a response, he added.

"This law must be changed. All the HIV NGOs know this new rule, and they want to fight it," Yu said.