BEIJING, May 28, 2013 (AFP) - A Chinese province is likely to abolish mandatory HIV tests for teachers, state media said Tuesday, making it the first region on the mainland to eliminate the measures long-branded as discriminatory.
HIV carriers are excluded from civil service jobs including teaching and policing in many provinces across China, leading to accusations of prejudice from rights groups.
But the state-run China Daily said that HIV tests had been removed from a draft list of health standards for teaching candidates in Guangdong, in the south of the country.
The announcement represents a "breakthrough" in a campaign to overturn discriminatory laws and brings Chinese policy into line with international norms, said Lu Jun, head of Beijing-based human rights group the Yi Ren Ping Centre.
"It's the first time (Chinese authorities) has made a change. Such rules are unimaginable in other countries and having them changed is inevitable," he told AFP.
Kong Lingkun, of AIDS advocacy group Beijing Rainbow Centre, said provincial testing policies were at odds with central government statements, adding: "Guangdong's move is more one of correcting their mistakes."
The China Daily quoted a lawyer as saying that people with HIV have filed an increased number of anti-discrimination lawsuits which have raised awareness of the issue, though most have been unsuccessful.
An HIV-positive teacher in Jiangxi province, which neighbours Guangdong, won 45,000 yuan compensation after suing his local education department for employment discrimination, China's Xinhua news agency reported in January.
"There are now many more influential voices in China calling for the revision or complete removal of the pre-employment health check system," Hong Kong-based labour rights group China Labour Bulletin said in a commentary on the case.
As of the end of 2011 there were an estimated 780,000 people with HIV/AIDS in China, according to the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, out of the country's total population of about 1.35 billion.
The first 10 months of 2012 saw more than 34,000 new cases of AIDS reported in China, up 12.7 percent over the same period last year, the state-run Global Times reported, citing a health ministry document.