Gov’t urged to take steps to remove discrimination
By Kim Rahn
Government efforts to remove deep-rooted prejudice and discrimination against those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS are lacking, a lawmaker and experts said.
Patients of the epidemic can survive for lengthy periods with proper treatment, but the public continue to recognize the disease as fatal, they said.
In a survey conducted by the Korea Center for Disease Control and Prevention in 2009, AIDS reminded ordinary people of “venereal disease,” “death” and “incurable disease,” said Rep. Won Hee-mok of the Grand National Party, Wednesday.
Discrimination runs deep
Such misconceptions and negative views result in discrimination against people with HIV or AIDS, alienating them in society, according to the lawmaker.
“We need to not only offer medical services to such patients but also find ways to reduce discrimination against them and improve their human rights,” Won said.
The lawmaker said about 30 kinds of HIV medicines have been developed and they help HIV positive people survive for 10-20 years. The disease resembles a chronic illness rather than a death sentence. The survey also supported this, showing that 60 percent of people who got the virus 10 years ago were still alive as of 2009, and 35 percent of those that were infected 20 years ago.
“According to the survey, however, one third of people in general think those getting HIV or AIDS die soon. Discrimination against such people is much more serious here than in advanced nations,” Won said.
Patients remain ignored
In the 2009 survey, 45.3 percent of the respondents said they wouldn’t allow their children to have an HIV positive person as a classmate _ it is a decrease from 2003’s 50.4 percent, but still far higher than 20.7 percent among French people in a survey conducted in 1992 and 33 percent among Belgians in 1993.
Some 35 percent also said such people should be segregated from society, while 5.6 percent of French and 4.7 percent of Belgians thought so about a decade ago.
The survey showed such discrimination has made 33.2 percent of people with HIV or AIDS live separately from their family or severe family ties. About two fifths of such people quit their jobs, and about half of them did so out of depression or fear that co-workers would find out.
An activist supporting HIV positive people and AIDS patients said the government policy on AIDS mainly aims to prevent the spread of the disease, rather than focusing on tending to those already infected.
“Prevention is important. But it is also important to help patients live with others as a member of society,” the activist at Love4One, a group of people with HIV or AIDS and their supporters, said without disclosing his name.
“Such people don’t apply for welfare services easily out of fear that their condition may be disclosed. Many social systems also discriminate against them. For example, those with HIV or AIDS can’t have automobile insurance, because insurance firms think they may cause a car accident deliberately to commit suicide to get death benefits for their family. This one example attests to the insensitivity that exists in society to people with the disease,” he said.
Won also said many advanced countries ban discrimination against people with HIV or AIDS in employment and give them similar favors to those that are disabled.