A proposal by the Chinese government to bar HIV patients from visiting spa parlours and public bathhouses has triggered a controversy with many calling it discriminatory.
State media reported that the proposed regulation generated critical comment after it was circulated to gather opinion.
“A national draft regulation governing businesses offering bath, foot massage, therapeutic springs or spa services has caused controversy due to its proposed ban on customers with sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS and infectious skin diseases,” a state media report said.
Doctors, aids workers and health sector workers reacted by saying that the ban, if ratified, would promote misinformation and discrimination.
“There is no evidence that people can be infected with HIV in public bathhouses,” Wu Hao, from the Beijing Research Centre on Sexually Transmitted Diseases and Aids, was quoted as saying by the Beijing Morning News.
The paper also quoted an Aids activist as saying he was extremely disappointed with the draft proposal.
“Banning HIV patients from using public bathhouses and spas will only exacerbate people's misunderstanding, discrimination and fear of HIV/Aids, and will not help reduce the transmission of the disease,” he said.
“Medical experts said the HIV virus that causes AIDS doesn't spread through public bathing facilities and such a ban is a kind of discrimination,” the state media report added.
It added that according to industry officials the regulations are “not feasible as it is impossible for staff to tell an AIDS patient by appearance only.”
A top UN official, according to AFP news agency, criticised the proposal.
Hedia Belhadj, China country coordinator for UNAIDS, said “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 said.
China, according to official figures, has more than 430,000 people infected with HIV.
But the United Nations estimates that the real number could be between 620,000 to 940,000 cases of HIV infection. Among them, it is estimated that 146,000 to 162,000 could have full-blown Aids.