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Can HIV-positive people work in China?

The Chinese government has put in place policies to help HIV-positive people receive proper medical care and enjoy the same rights and freedoms as those who are not afflicted with the virus. If the person’s situation is stable and will not affect normal work, they are encouraged to work, and they are always encouraged to continue to engage with society and not isolate themselves. 

This extends to foreigners living in China – in 2010, the Chinese authorities allowed unrestricted access in China to foreigners who are HIV positive. This means that even if you are HIV positive, the authorities cannot deny you a residence permit, work permit or Z Visa based on the fact that you have tested positive for the virus. 


It’s not all good news…

That’s what the law says, at least. However, in reality there is a huge amount of HIV-phobia among most of the Chinese public. Many people in China regard HIV-positive folks as dangers to be avoided if possible. And sadly this applies to employers, too – someone who has tested positive for HIV may find it difficult to get a job in the country with a Chinese employer. Also, while there are laws protecting HIV-positive people from discrimination by the authorities issuing their permits and visas, at present there are no laws protecting their employment rights and workplace protections. 

There have been instances of HIV-positive people suing their former potential employers for discrimination, but these cases have not yet changed the overall working conditions within China. This is probably because employers are most likely to use excuses when discriminating against someone because of medical conditions, and so it is difficult for plaintiffs to prove that they have actually been discriminated against. 

In one case, a Chinese citizen passed the qualification tests to become a teacher, but was then denied the job when his HIV-positive status was uncovered. He attempted to fight the case in court, but failed, and lost a later appeal as well. And while the laws around hepatitis B are explicit about which jobs are restricted from carriers, the laws about HIV-positive people are much more vague.

In fact, the difficulty of proving the guilt of the employer in the event of a legal dispute means that HIV-positive people may try to remain ‘in the closet’ while at work – with predictable results if their condition is found out. Of course, for foreigners working in China the mandatory health examination for foreign workers makes it all-but-impossible to hide their condition.

None of this means that it is impossible for a HIV-positive person to get a job at a Chinese company, or within China, but it is important to be realistic about the difficulties that they may face. Seeking employment with foreign-run companies may help with the process of finding a job.

For information about STD/STI and veneral disease clinics in China, go here.


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One Response to Can HIV-positive people work in China?

  • I have read a LOT of conflicting information about the situation for HIV positive foreigners considering working in China. If I read this correctly, does this mean that as LONG as the employer does not have an issue with the HIV status, then there is no problem with working in China? Also, how does an employer find out? Does the government share results of the health examination with employers?

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