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Hunan lifts job ban on HBV carriers
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-03-04 00:05

The ban on non-infectious hepatitis B virus (HBV) carriers being employed by government agencies was lifted on Tuesday by the government of Hunan Province in Central China.

The move is regarded as a major milestone in a national movement fighting discriminatory hiring practices against HBV carriers.

With some exceptions, government agencies may legally reject candidates based on the condition of their livers.

Yang Chunlin, vice-director of the Personnel Department of the Hunan provincial government said on Tuesday that the newly revised regulation on civil service employment stipulates that non-infectious HBV carriers, for the first time, be allowed to be employed by government agencies.

Ironically, on the same day, Zhou Yichao, a HBV carrier who was rejected for a public servant's job, was executed in East China's Zhejiang Province because he killed an official who rejected his application in April last year.

Zhou passed a civil service exam in January last year in Jiaxing City and ranked among the very top; but his application was rejected because he tested positive for hepatitis B, a liver disease he never knew he had. Many HBV carriers do not show any symptoms of infection.

Feeling wronged and driven by anger, Zhou broke into the recruitment office, stabbed one official to death and seriously wounded another.

The tragedy might not have happened if Zhou had applied for the post a year later. The Zhejiang government opened the door to civil service recruitment to non-infectious HBV carriers, like Zhou, earlier this year.

Non-infectious HBV carriers refer to those who do not show any symptoms of infection but three of the five indices of their livers test positive.

Health experts say the virus in them is in a relatively stable state and there is little possibility of the carriers infecting others.

Statistics show that 120 million Chinese people, a number equivalent to the total population of France and Britain, are chronic carriers of the disease. Many of them show no symptoms and do not pose a threat to their co-workers.

Health experts say hepatitis B is spread through the exchange of bodily fluids, such as contaminated blood, unprotected sex, shared needles and infected-mother-to-newborn contact. It can't be contracted through casual contact such as shaking hands.

However, the huge group of HBV carriers, making up roughly 10 per cent of the Chinese population, are locked out of jobs and suffer discrimination in social life.

The HBV carriers call themselves as "HBVER" and there is a well-known website established by the virus carriers -- www.hbver.com, where more than 20,000 "HBVERs" have registered and call for protection of their rights to employment and other social benefits.

"I have a dream that one day we HBVERs may have the same opportunities as ordinary people to learn, to work and to live. I hope the day will not be far away," says a message at the website.

Fortunately, as China begins to pay more attention to the plight of HIV/AIDS patients and public health in general after last year's SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak, hepatitis is starting to inch towards the forefront of public debate and the latest move in Hunan is a catalyst.

Hepatitis B is incurable but preventable with a vaccine. The Chinese Government is stepping up efforts to immunize newborns and gradually reduce the overall infected population.

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