updated 11/12/2010 9:38:03 AM ET 2010-11-12T14:38:03

A Chinese court ruled Friday against the defendant in the country's first lawsuit over employment discrimination against people who are HIV-positive, the man's lawyer said.

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The defendant, identified only by the nickname "Little Wu," brought the suit in the eastern city of Anqing after being refused a teaching job because he tested positive for the virus that causes AIDS.

Anqing's Yinjiang District Court ruled the city education bureau had correctly followed public service health standards in assessing his unsuitability for the position, lawyer Zheng Jineng said by phone. He said an appeal was planned.

Although the government recognizes AIDS as a serious problem, sufferers are routinely stigmatized and discriminated against in employment, education and other areas. Chinese anti-discrimination laws in general are weak and poorly enforced.

The Beijing Yireping Center, a private group that fights AIDS discrimination, condemned the court's decision and called for a legal clarification of employment rights for sufferers.

"Our center believes this court ruling is bad news for people with AIDS," it said in an e-mailed statement. "If all sectors of the economy adhere to the public servant's medical examination standards, then people infected with HIV will simply be unable to find any job at all."

Yu Fangqiang of Yireping said the ruling was based on requirements that teachers be healthy and free of infectious diseases.

However, he said that requirement had been thought to have been overridden by recent changes eliminating employment discrimination for hepatitis B carriers.

"The ruling will hit the HIV carriers hard because they thought the law would protect their rights, but it didn't," Yu told The Associated Press.

HIV gained a foothold in China largely because of unsanitary blood plasma-buying schemes and tainted transfusions in hospitals. Health authorities say sex has now overtaken drug abuse as the main channel of transmission.

It was not known how the defendant in the Anqing case was infected.

AIDS was the top killer among infectious diseases in China for the first time in 2008, a likely reflection of improved reporting of HIV-AIDS statistics in recent years.

Government statistics from 2009 showed there were 319,877 Chinese confirmed to be living with HIV-AIDS, though Health Minister Chen Zhu has said the actual level of infections is probably near 740,000.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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