China Eyes HIV-Positive Bathhouse Ban

A new proposal would mandate that all spas, hot springs and bathhouses in China post anti-AIDS/HIV or STD visitor signs in their businesses. REUTERS/Stringer

China’s Ministry of Commerce has drafted a regulation that would ban HIV-positive people from bathhouses around the country.

According to a report by Taiwan-based >Want China Times, failure to comply with the new regulation, if it is approved, could result in a fine of up to 30,000 yuan ($4,900). The law would mandate that all spas, hot springs and bathhouses comply by posting anti-AIDS/HIV or STD visitor signs in their businesses.

Conversation over the potential ban has sparked heated commentary. Wu Hao, a Beijing-based AIDS expert, told Want China Times that such restrictions are not unprecedented in the country but have yet to be mandated by the state. Wu added that there has never been a cited case of HIV contraction from a public bathhouse or similar facility.

Other health experts has similarly skeptical reactions. "We are concerned about the regulation," UNAIDS Advocacy and Information Officer Guy Taylor said in an interview China Daily. "It’s important to highlight that HIV can only be transmitted in three ways: through sexual contact, through blood-borne transmission and through mother-to-child transmission. There is no risk of transmission of HIV through casual contact in bathhouses or similar facilities.”

Xiao Dong, head of the China Rainbow Health Organization, called the proposed regulation a huge step back for HIV/AIDS education. “It’s common sense that people don’t get HIV from sharing baths or swimming pools,” he said.

On a practical level, others have raised questions about how the government plans on enforcing such a ban. "You can’t tell by one’s appearance if they are HIV-positive or no," said Wu Zunyou, director of the National Center for AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Disease Control and Prevention. "How can bathhouses check whether customers have the virus?"

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