Hepatitis bars China toddlers from kindergarten

BEIJING (Reuters) - A group of 101 mothers have written to China’s Communist Party leadership for help after their toddlers were denied kindergarten places for testing positive for hepatitis B.

China has passed laws in recent years reversing a ban on its 120-130 million hepatitis B carriers from the civil service, and banning companies from using the virus as an excuse to fire or not hire.

But activists and sufferers say discrimination and stigma fueled by ignorance remain widespread and a number of provincial governments still have laws banning carriers from kindergartens, despite minimal chances of infection from casual contact.

“Our children have already been unfortunate enough to be infected with hepatitis B, and yet to be treated with such discrimination they cannot receive a normal pre-school education,” said a transcript of the letter carried in the Beijing News on Thursday.

“How will this affect our children’s lives? How will stigmatization affect their character and their growing into adults? We dare not think,” it added.

Li Hua, a mother from coastal Shandong province, said the letter targeted Liu Yandong, a female member of China’s cabinet, the State Council, with an education portfolio.

“We thought of writing to Premier Wen Jiabao but thought he might be too busy… Then we thought of Liu Yandong because she is the only woman on the State Council… is possibly a mother herself, and can more deeply understand our feelings,” Li told Reuters by telephone.

Hepatitis B is usually transmitted from mother to child, but can be passed on through sex, blood transfusions and contaminated needles.

While older children and adults can flush out the virus, children under five usually end up carrying it for life. One in four are at risk of developing cirrhosis — scarring of the liver — or liver cancer later in life.  Continued…

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