China will relax
a long-standing rule that bars foreigners with HIV from
entering the country, a health official in
The law will be
revised but a date has not yet been set, said Mao Qun'an,
a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, according to a
transcript of a news conference posted on the
ministry's Web site late Monday.
Under a 1994 law,
foreigners applying for a residency permit in China
must take an HIV test. Visitors to the country are asked to
declare whether they have the virus -- and can be
refused entry or deported if they do. The law also
affects those with other sexually transmitted diseases
But Mao said
China's attitudes have changed.
''At present, we
are considering, and we are changing the present
regulation that stops foreigners with HIV and AIDS from
entering the country, and this job is under way,'' he
said. He did not give any details on how the law would
The country has
made more open efforts to tackle the disease in recent
years, but still clamps down on some AIDS-awareness
activists who are critical of the government's
policies on the spread of the virus.
In the past, the
law has stopped those with HIV or AIDS from attending
conferences on the disease in China.
''The change is
correct and significant. It will benefit international
cooperation on HIV/AIDS and will eliminate most Chinese
people's concept that AIDS comes from foreigners,''
said Wan Yanhai, a Chinese activist for AIDS awareness
and effective public health policies. Chinese police
have occasionally detained him for his work.
Wan said the
Geneva-based Global Fund was behind the government's
decision. The group finances programs that combat AIDS,
tuberculosis and malaria and recently granted China
$5.8 million to fight HIV and AIDS.
The fund is
holding a board meeting this week in the southwestern
Chinese city of Kunming, and may have pressured the
government to revise the law, Wan said.
China holds a
seat on the board of the Global Fund, which has approved a
total of $424 million to fight disease in the country.
The World Health
Organization welcomed the news Tuesday, saying it was a
major step in fighting discrimination and will lead to a
greater understanding of how the virus is transmitted.
this show that the Chinese government is continuing to
make important progress in the fight against HIV/AIDS,''
said a statement issued by Joanna Brent, a WHO
spokeswoman in China.
650,000 people in China live with HIV, according to the most
recent government statistics, which date from
2005. (Henry Sanderson, AP)