Many central and local government bodies as well as private-sector firms reject job applicants who, according to blood tests and health checkups, carry hepatitis viruses, according to a national association of people with liver diseases.

The government bodies and firms are ignoring Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry directives to stop putting the applicants through mandatory blood tests and health checks when they apply for employment.

The Tokyo-based patient organization said it has received several complaints from people who have been denied job opportunities because of their diseases.

Since the hepatitis B and C viruses are not transmittable to others in daily activities, the ministry said rejecting applicants on the basis of their infection is wrong. However, there are no provisions under current laws to punish such discriminatory practices, a ministry official said.

The ministry said it has not been able to come up with effective measures to stop the widespread practice on the part of the employers, and the patient organization is calling for efforts to spread correct information on the diseases.

The ministry issued directives in April 2001 requiring employers to stop giving blood tests, health checkups and hepatitis virus tests to applicants, as such exams are not relevant to gauging job aptitude.

However, the practice is still widespread among private-sector firms, local governments and certain central government bodies.

The National Police Agency, for example, requires applicants for police jobs to test for Hepatitis B and AIDS viruses.

The NPA claimed police officers must be stout and able to perform hard duties. Although people who have developed symptoms of those diseases will be rejected because of such concerns, the NPA said it will not turn down applicants merely because they carry such a virus.

The patient organization noted that many in-house doctors at companies lack proper knowledge about hepatitis.

Examples of job discrimination that have been reported to the organization include an applicant who was turned down by financial institutions and broadcasting firms because of infection with the Hepatitis B virus.

A vocational school student aiming to become a welfare worker was unable to obtain relevant qualifications because he was denied on-the-job training at institutions because of his infection with the hepatitis C virus, while a nurse complained to the organization that she was fired by a hospital because of a hepatitis infection, according to the organization.

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