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HIV Job Seeker to Hear Verdict Soon

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A verdict is expected to be handed down on Friday in the mainland's first court case of discrimination against an HIV-positive job seeker, the plaintiff's lawyers said on Tuesday.

The trial, which involves a college graduate being denied a job in the education department of Anqing, Anhui province, started on Oct 13. The trial was not heard in public over privacy concerns, and the plaintiff, going by the alias Xiao Wu, did not appear in court.

Xiao Wu graduated from college this year and was denied a teaching job by the Anqing city education department this August after he tested positive for HIV, though he achieved good results in the written test and job interviews.

Under the civil service's recruitment policy, HIV carriers cannot be recruited as civil servants. However, under the Employment Promotion Law that took effect in 2008, it is illegal to reject any job applicant on the basis of an infectious disease.

Wu Gonghua, deputy director of the education department of Anqing, said after the trial that the recruiting procedure for Xiao Wu was legal. The department of education has refused to say anything else about the trial.

Xiao Wu, in his early 20s, now teaches in a private school in a local county.

"I fully expect to win the case," Xiao said in a telephone interview with China Daily, after he was informed on Monday afternoon that the decision was coming.

"Frankly I'm not sure whether I will work for the education department even if I win the case," he said in a telephone interview on Tuesday.

"Yet winning the case is still very important to me. If I win, I will be able to apply for other similar positions in the future and support myself."

He said his current job gives him an ordinary income, but working in a private school is very tiring.

"I'm also concerned about the condition of my health and have gone for medical tests regularly in the past four months," he said. "The good thing is that my tests show nothing terrible so far."

Xiao said that this is another reason he should get equal employment rights, as his ability to work is the same as everyone else.

During the past month, Xiao has been contacted by more than 10 media outlets asking for interviews. Some asked to record his voice or have him appear on TV - requests he turned down.

"I'm afraid my friends and family will know, and people's gossip will make my life in the small county even harder."

Even his friends and family members are unaware he has HIV.

"The result of the case will be a landmark in China, especially for those who are affected with infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS," he said. "If we win, the 740,000 HIV-positive people will get equal job opportunities."

One of Xiao Wu's lawyers, Li Fangping, said he is positive about the outcome, but still has concerns.

"I believe we are valid in law, but the outcome of a case as controversial as this is likely to be affected by its social influence," Li said.

He pointed out that society still has strong prejudice against people with HIV, especially against them being teachers.

Yu Fangqiang, a coordinator from Beijing Yirenping Center, a civil society that promotes welfare, benevolence and equality, has been trying to help Xiao since the case was filed.

"Equal employment rights of these people have long been ignored," Yu said. "Yet they don't dare stand up and fight for their rights due to privacy concerns. The case will allow society to know more about HIV victims, and HIV victims will get a better idea about their legal rights."

(China Daily November 10, 2010)

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