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China Drops Hepatitis B Check

China Drops Hepatitis B Check

China's government will soon issue a policy removing hepatitis B virus from health screenings administered to people applying for work or school. HBV is endemic in China, where an estimated 120 million people live with the infection. People found to have HBV in standard health checks are also sometimes denied positions, the health ministry said in its December 29 announcement.

"According to experts, the current society's misunderstanding of [HBV] carriers is mainly due to the lack of knowledge about hepatitis B," says ministry spokesman Mao Qun'an. HBV is transmitted by blood, sexual contact, or from mother-to-child, he says. "Daily work, study, or live contact will not lead to the spread of hepatitis B."

"I think the government's decision is just a passive response to the cries of the people," says Lu Jun, founder of Yirenping, a nongovernmental organization that fights HBV-related discrimination. While applauding the change, Lu said he is "worried about the supervision" for this new policy. "If no punishment would be carried out for companies or health organizations doing the screening, the policy might not be effective."

Since its 2006 founding, Yirenping has helped file over 40 lawsuits related to HBV, mostly discrimination claims. In July authorities raided the group's offices and confiscated dozens of newsletters -- in retaliation, the group claims, for its work.

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