Underreporting, Discrimination Facilitates Spread of HIV/AIDS in Taiwan: Doctor

Underreporting, Discrimination Facilitates Spread of HIV/AIDS in Taiwan: Doctor

What you need to know

Following the case of a student who was expelled from a military university after he tested positive for HIV, a doctor warns that discrimination against people with AIDS has led to underreporting of the disease in Taiwan.

Many Taiwanese are not getting tested for HIV/AIDS for fear of discrimination against the disease, according the director of the Taiwan AIDS Society,

“Citizens are not willing to get tested because of the discrimination against HIV that exists in society,” Dr. Lin Si-syun (林錫勳) told a forum in Taipei today, adding that some patients refuse to receive medical treatment after diagnosis.

The reporting rate of HIV in Taiwan is only around 70 percent, 20 percent lower than the international average, which means the disease has a higher chance of spreading undetected, he says.

Lin was speaking at a forum jointly held by the Persons with HIV/AIDS Rights Advocacy Association of Taiwan (PRAA) and Chen Yeh Law Offices (建業法律事務所). It was attended by a range of Taiwanese media, HIV/AIDS experts, NGOs and lawyers.

The forum was held in response to a decision by Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to fine National Defense University (NDU) NT$1 million (US$32,000) for expelling an HIV-positive student in 2013. In April, the High Court ruled against the CDC after it tried to have the student, known as Ah Li, reinstated.

Lin says Ah Li’s case should have a huge impact on Taiwan’s public consciousness.

“It is not only a human rights issue but also a public health issue,” says Lin. “If the student in this case cannot receive true justice, what will other patients face in future?”

Lin says NDU and the CDC are government units, and called on President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and the Executive Yuan to comment on the case.

Jyou Yu-siou (周宇修), a lawyer for the Ministry of Health and Welfare, which oversees the CDC, also attended the forum. He told The News Lens International that lawyers involved in Ah Li's case tried to use the International Guidelines on HIV/AIDS and Human Rights in court. However, there is no direct regulation in Taiwan for the conventions to be applied.

“Currently in Taiwan, international conventions regarding human rights are still just slogans. They can barely influence lawsuits,” Jyou says.

Jyou still hopes that Taiwanese courts will in the future adopt international regulations so that human rights can be better protected.

Chang Shao-teng (張少騰), a lawyer at the Chen Yeh Law Offices, said that discrimination inside government institutions was a bad example for the rest of the country.

Lawyer Victoria Hsu (許秀雯) of the Taiwan Alliance to Promote Civil Partnership Rights works at the Executive Yuan's Gender Equality Committee. She says conservative institutions like the military or the police are prone to discriminating against disadvantaged groups.

“They used to discriminate against female soldiers," Hsu said.

Hsu says there should be an independent government committee in charge of HIV discrimination cases.

First Editor: Edward White
Second Editor: J. Michael Cole