What you need to know
'I thought of each day as a war.' Calls are mounting for the Taiwanese government to intervene in the case of a student who was expelled from a military university after he tested positive for HIV. The student just wants to complete his degree.
The student at the center of a growing controversy involving discrimination against people with HIV/AIDS in Taiwan wants to return to the university that expelled him three years ago.
Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC) this week fined National Defense University (NDU) NT$1 million (US$32,000) for expelling the HIV-positive student, who is known as Ah Li, in 2013.
Ah Li said on Monday that he is “doing okay” and still wants to return to school to complete his education.
In April, the High Court ruled against the CDC after it tried to have Ah Li reinstated at NDU. The Court said the CDC could take further action against the school under the “HIV Infection Control and Patient Rights Protection Act.” The CDC said earlier this week it will continue to appeal in court for the student to be reinstated.
Eventis Liu (劉繼蔚), a lawyer, suggested the Court should have ruled in favor of returning the student to NDU. Liu says that while the student’s expulsion was illegal, it is likely the Court was unwilling to get involved in a dispute involving the Ministry of Health and Welfare and the Ministry of National Defense (MND) – the latter is the supervising agency of NDU.
Writing in the Chinese-language United Daily News (UDN) under the pen name Ninjia Text (人渣文本), Chou Wei-hang (周偉航), a well-known local commentator, criticized MND’s handling of the issue, calling it the “Ministry of National Shame.” He wrote that the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) had contacted the Ministry of Health and Welfare about the case and said that Taiwan’s human rights record was taking a step backwards. Another columnist, also writing in UDN, likewise suggested the case was a violation of human rights.
Ah Li’s story
Ah Li tested HIV-positive in 2012. Upon learning about the student’s condition, the university reportedly prohibited him from taking swimming classes and required that his food, plates and clothes be washed separately from those of other students. The school says it did not expel the student for being HIV-positive, but rather for his “disrespectful actions towards school.”
In an interview with UDN in May, Ah Li said that after he tested positive for HIV, the military hospital sent his test results to NDU.
“Normally, the results should only be sent to the patient. But the rules of the military system is different, I think,” he said.
He said NDU staff pressured him to quit after failing to pass a physical exam and threatened to notify his parents of his condition.
Staff spoke to him frequently, pushing him to leave, he said.
“Each meeting would last for 30-40 minutes, and every single word I said was recorded by the school. I was anxious and nervous, worrying that if I said anything wrong, I might affect other students who faced the same situation as me,” Ah-Li said. “I thought of each day as a war. I told myself that the more days I stayed at school, the more I win.”
He was eventually expelled. The school accused him having a disobedient attitude and being disrespectful toward his teachers.
“I think that was an excuse to expel me,” he said.
Despite his expulsion, he says he is still proud to have attended the school. However, he said it was difficult to find work without a degree.
“I’ve tried writing letters to the Ministry of Education, the Executive Yuan, and even to the president to seek help, but this has all been in vain,” he said. “I still hope I can go back to school and get the bachelor's degree.”
He said he hoped that making his case public could help other victims of discrimination.
First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole