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CAIXINMEDIA

In China, HIV-Positive And Hired To Intimidate With Infection

A Chinese housing developer recently hired AIDS patients to threaten people with infection so they would leave their homes. It seems shocking, but discrimination in China based on HIV status is actually legal, leaving many patients little employment choic

On the fringes, In Beijing
On the fringes, In Beijing
Yao Jiayi

BEIJING — If it wasn't shocking enough to learn that a local housing developer in Henan province recently hired HIV-positive people to threaten residents with infection so they would move out of their houses, consider that this wasn't an isolated case.

In China, it's relatively common for people living with AIDS to be hired for jobs such as helping to get houses demolished — in this case, the six people were known as the "AIDS demolition team" — or collecting debts, says Cheng Shuaishuai, founder of an anti-discrimination organization providing free housing to patients suffering from AIDS.

The main suspect in the Henan case, a man named Liu, told the Xinhua News Agency that he learned about the job opportunity online, and Cheng says many employers are apparently willing to use this kind of coercion on the uneducated people in Henan's rural areas.

Though Cheng stresses that HIV carriers should be punished just like other citizens if they violate the law, he says the majority of people living with AIDS in China work just like other ordinary people.

Media coverage suggests that people with HIV opt for these shady assignments intimidating people because of physical limitations that preclude them from doing heavy labor. But as Cheng points out, there are latency and onset periods for HIV-positive people. In theory, medication can prolong the latent period of the virus — the stage where there are often no symptoms — so that those infected have no obvious signs of illness. But for those with a long history of HIV infection and who started medication only after experiencing full-blown AIDS symptoms, physical fitness is already diminished.

There are more than 60,000 identified HIV cases in Henan province. The area has the highest prevalence of HIV in China because of unsafe blood donations and blood selling. Among these cases, 30,000 are past latency and in the full-blown AIDS stage. Though the Henan authority gives a small living subsidy to each person carrying the HIV virus and to people suffering from AIDS, medical expenses aren't fully covered once they are hospitalized.

That some HIV-positive people support themselves by taking jobs that require intimidation reflects the grim reality of employment discrimination against this vulnerable group. Though China's Employment Promotion Act generally specifies that employers cannot refuse hiring on the basis of whether a person carries an infectious disease, it allows companies to decline HIV-positive candidates by saying that they are "medically unfit."

In 2010, a Normal University graduate from Anhui province passed the teacher recruitment examination but the local education authority refused to give him a job because he was HIV-positive. He filed the first anti-AIDS discrimination lawsuit in China but lost both his initial case and his appeal.

His lawyer, Li Fangping, says that news coverage of the "AIDS demolition team" and similar cases will definitely affect public perception of HIV-positive people, stigmatizing them even more. It's even likely that the judges will penalize those involved more harshly than they otherwise would in order to calm public outrage.

Li says there should be scrutiny not just of the housing developer and the HIV-positive people in his employ but also of the role of public authorities. For example, was the "AIDS demolition team" somehow protected from the government?

It's only just that any housing developers and officials involved are duly punished, just as their hired hands no doubt will be.

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Geopolitics

New Probe Finds Pro-Bolsonaro Fake News Dominated Social Media Through Campaign

Ahead of Brazil's national elections Sunday, the most interacted-with posts on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Telegram and WhatsApp contradict trustworthy information about the public’s voting intentions.

Jair Bolsonaro bogus claims perform well online

Cris Faga/ZUMA
Laura Scofield and Matheus Santino

SÂO PAULO — If you only got your news from social media, you might be mistaken for thinking that Jair Bolsonaro is leading the polls for Brazil’s upcoming presidential elections, which will take place this Sunday. Such a view flies in the face of what most of the polling institutes registered with the Superior Electoral Court indicate.

An exclusive investigation by the Brazilian investigative journalism agency Agência Pública has revealed how the most interacted-with and shared posts in Brazil on social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and WhatsApp share data and polls that suggest victory is certain for the incumbent Bolsonaro, as well as propagating conspiracy theories based on false allegations that research institutes carrying out polling have been bribed by Bolsonaro’s main rival, former president Luís Inácio Lula da Silva, or by his party, the Workers’ Party.

Agência Pública’s reporters analyzed the most-shared posts containing the phrase “pesquisa eleitoral” [electoral polls] in the period between the official start of the campaigning period, on August 16, to September 6. The analysis revealed that the most interacted-with and shared posts on social media spread false information or predicted victory for Jair Bolsonaro.

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