by Xinhua writers Wang Ruoyao and Hu Longjiang
BEIJING, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- A fresh debate on the rights of HIV-positive people has erupted after China announced a proposed regulation intending to keep them out of public bathhouses.
The proposal was posted online by its drafter, the Ministry of Commerce (MOC), on Friday for a month-long public consultation.
The rule requires public bathing places, including bathhouses, spas and foot massage centers, to put up signs barring "people with sexually transmitted diseases, AIDS and infectious skin diseases" in prominent positions.
Facilities that don't comply and fail to make changes could be fined up to 30,000 yuan (4,911 U.S. dollars), it said.
The restriction has drummed up support from many members of the public while exasperating HIV carriers and advocacy groups.
An online poll that has attracted more than 23,000 respondents as of Tuesday morning showed nearly 73 percent of the respondents applaud the proposal "for the sake of public safety and health."
Only 21 percent of the surveyed netizens opposed the ban, deeming it discriminatory and believing the HIV virus is unlikely to spread under normal conditions in a public bathhouse, according to the poll conducted by the popular web portal Sina.
"I know one can't easily get infected, but it's definitely reasonable to take measures to reduce -- or even better -- completely avoid the risks," said a government employee surnamed Liu in southwest China's Chongqing municipality.
A patron of the city's foot massage shops, Liu added the ban would also shield workers in establishments from the incurable virus.
Loads of research have indicated that the spread of HIV via water in public baths is virtually impossible, according to Zhang Beichuan, a prominent Chinese AIDS expert.
"There's no need to talk about the probability of infection in this case, as transmission of the virus requires an open wound's exposure to HIV-infected blood," Zhang said.
Urine and sweat one may contact within public bathhouses do not contain HIV, said Wu Zunyou, director of the HIV/AIDS division of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
"Only knowledge can dispel fears. The public should be given more chances and channels to learn about the disease," said a worker surnamed Kong with Chi Heng Foundation, a Hong Kong-based non-governmental organization dedicated to AIDS relief and anti-discrimination.
The ban would be removed if "it is proven that allowing HIV carriers to access public bathhouses will not cause transmission of the virus," an MOC official behind the draft regulation was quoted as saying by the newspaper Beijing News on Tuesday.