HIV positive man sues employer and medical institutions for rights violations
Updated 18:48, 02-Feb-2019
By Yang Jinghao and Zhang Kai
03:34

A HIV positive man from southwest China's Sichuan Province is preparing for a legal battle against three medical institutions, which he claims tested him without his consent.

"These three organizations are accomplices of my employer and should be held responsible. I'm very determined to call them to account from the very beginning, no matter what the result of the lawsuit against my company would be," 28-year-old Xie Peng told CGTN.

In May 2017, at the request of his employer, Xie received a health check at a hospital in the city of Neijiang after a probation period.

"I was not aware that an HIV test was included until the hospital told me that I was tested positive for HIV," said Xie. His blood sample was then sent to the city's different levels of Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for confirmation.

Xie's unexpected HIV-positive status cost him the long-cherished job. He then took his employer to court.

The report for Xie's health check says he doesn't meet the health standard, which deprived him of his job. /CGTN Photo

The report for Xie's health check says he doesn't meet the health standard, which deprived him of his job. /CGTN Photo

Through court mediation, the company agreed to compensate Xie and sign a two-year contract with him. But he's not satisfied with this result.

"The premise of the agreement is that I can only work from home, but the company hasn't assigned me any tasks at all. I used to be a mainstay at the company, but now it has become a drag, and I can only get a very basic salary. This is not what I want," said Xie, dubbing himself a "useless man."

Xie Peng checks regulations related to HIV testing and prevention online. /CGTN Photo

Xie Peng checks regulations related to HIV testing and prevention online. /CGTN Photo

According to regulations, HIV testing in China has to be done with voluntary informed consent from the individuals to be tested. Based on this, Xie sued the hospital and CDCs for violation of his privacy in November, demanding an apology and compensation. But his appeal was denied by a local court in December.

The court ruled that the hospital was just fulfilling the contract with the company and that it should be exempt from liability. The ruling also says that the CDCs were performing their statutory duties, which is legal.

"I think this is untenable, as the premise of performance of a contract is that the interests of the third party should not be damaged," said Yu Quan, Xie's lawyer.

The medical organizations refused comment when reached by CGTN. A representative from the city's health authority said they "respect the court's ruling."

Xie Peng consults a lawyer for his upcoming lawsuit. /CGTN Photo

Xie Peng consults a lawyer for his upcoming lawsuit. /CGTN Photo

This case has stirred up a lively debate online, with many in favor of the company and the medical institutions, as they hold that the concealment of one's HIV status poses potential risks to others. Experts say such controversy shows the public's lack of understanding of this disease and those who live with it.

"Actually, the disease is not as bad as many think, but it has been demonized over the years and caused panic among the public. As for people's right to know, we medical practitioners don't agree those with HIV need to make their HIV status known to others except for their sex partners, as the disease is not contagious in daily life," said Chen Xiaoyu, a HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment expert from Sichuan Province.

In China, all applicants in the civil service have to be tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, with positive results leading to a disqualification. This actually goes against the country's Employment Promotion Law and the Infectious Disease Prevention Law. Today, such health check standards have been expanded to various enterprises, depriving many of equal employment opportunities.

Xie says he doesn't care if he wins or loses the upcoming case to a higher court. He just hopes what he does can encourage people with similar experiences to safeguard their own legitimate rights legally.

"I am unable to control or change how others treat me. But at least, we can't look down upon ourselves," said Xie.

(Luo Caiwen also made contributions to the story. Top photo: Xie Peng holds the court ruling report for the previous case. He is not satisfied with the result and has sued the three defendants to a higher court. /CGTN Photo)