www.groovekorea.com / June 2014 28 Edited by Jenny Na (jenny@groovekorea.com) mIsInformatIon anD DIscrImInatIon In the 1980s, when little was known about the AIDS epi- demic, people around the world thought the disease equaled sudden death. Today, however, advances in medicine have rendered it a chronic disease similar to asthma, diabetes or high blood pressure, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. It is now also widely known that HIV cannot be transmitted via touching, sharing utensils or even kissing. Yet misperceptions about the disease persist in Korea. “The public perception has been that only gay people and foreigners get HIV,” Lee said. All E-2 visa holders, or foreign language teachers, must undergo mandatory HIV testing in order to live and work in Korea, a policy that originated from the belief that foreigners were spreading the disease. “People (in Korea) believe HIV is a fatal, terrible virus,” Lee said. “Maybe I just don’t relate to that idea.” The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention re- ported in September 2013 that there were 953 new cases of HIV/AIDS in 2012 – 868 Koreans and 85 foreigners, with a ratio of men to women of 9.7 to 1. The total number of Koreans with HIV reached 7,788, with 99.8 percent of them infected through sexual contact. Yet the World Health Organization published statistics that same year on the Global Health Observatory Data Repository, re- porting the numbers to be closer to 12,000 to 20,000 HIV-posi- tive people of all ages in Korea. Some critics believe the discrep- ancy is linked to the profound prejudice against people living with HIV on the peninsula. “A lot of people (in Korea) think that HIV/AIDS is a disease that bad people get,” Korean ac- tivist Cho Myung-hwan told CBS News in 2011. “They feel they shouldn’t have to empathize with bad people.” In March, the National Human Rights Commission of Korea held a forum on discrimination against HIV-positive patients in Korean hospitals. The HIV/AIDS Infectee Association KNP+ and the HIV/AIDS Citizens’ Solidarity Nanuri+ reported that HIV-positive patients at a hospital in Seoul experienced both sexual assault and discrimination from hospital staff. The hos- pital did not provide HIV-positive patients with new gowns every week, as they did for other patients, and HIV-positive patients were unable to come and go as they wished, where- as other patients were free to do so. The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had selected the hospital as a special facility for people with HIV, but when these problems came to light, the KCDC cancelled its contract with the hospi- tal. It is still searching for another facility to take on HIV-pos- itive patients. ‘people who are infected are used to being alone. they try to hide themselves. they can’t tell others because they are afraid.’ lee Jeong-sik INSIGhT