China lifting ban on hepatitis B carriers

Long-time readers know this is a topic that always annoyed me (to put it mildly) – the treatment of hepatitis B carriers as lepers, banning them from certain types of jobs and needlessly stigmatizing them.

If this story is accurate, change is finally in the air:

China is set to issue regulations to remove hepatitis B check from physical examination for school entrance and work, according to the Ministry of Health.

Mao Qunan, a spokesman with the ministry, said here Tuesday that the move was based on related organizations’ thorough demonstration in regard to whether hepatitis B carriers will affect other people’s health.

However, Mao said restrictions will still exist in jobs that may induce hepatitis B virus transmission such as blood sampling.

“The list of these special professions that need restriction will have to go through a series of legal procedures for approval,” said Mao, adding that the upcoming regulations will cover related aspects.

In addition, the results of hepatitis B tests for other medical purposes should be protected as part of examinees’ privacy, and such tests should not be carried out by force.

“As we know more about the hepatitis B virus, our prevention and treatment measures become more specific,” said Xie Rao, a senior liver disease physician with the Beijing Ditan Hospital, adding that the move showed that the country’s understanding of the disease had entered a higher level.

Hepatitis B has been around about as long as humanity itself and has been well understood for many decades. There has been no sudden breakthrough that convinced the Chinese authorities that it was safe to end the ban, and the line that their understanding has now “entered a higher level” is baffling. All they did was catch up with what’s been common knowledge around the world for years: hepatitis B carriers, like those who test positive for AIDS, pose no extraordinary danger to their colleagues.

If this actually happens and the ban is lifted, I give China credit for reversing what was a vile policy. That it took this long, ruining many people’s lives along the way, is a tragedy.

Link via Danwei.