World AIDS Day
People walk near a red ribbon sand sculpture created by Indian sand artist Sudarshan Patnaik in Odisha.Reuters

A Chinese airline is being sued by a couple of passengers, who have been tested positive for HIV, as they were not allowed to board the flight.

Spring Airlines, a china-based airline refused to carry two HIV positive people and their friend. Their friend, however, was not HIV positive. The three of them had plans to travel from Shenyang, a town in the north-eastern regions of the country, to Shijiazhuang, a town south of Beijing, according to local media reports.

"After we got our boarding passes, we informed a Spring Airlines official that some of us had HIV," a passenger was quoted saying, by the BBC. "The official immediately rang up the Shanghai head office for instructions, and then told us the company has rules forbidding the transportation of passengers with HIV."

Spring Airlines, which is well known for being a budget airline, did not allow these passengers on board, after they declared their medical status to the staff of the aircraft.

As a result, the three passengers have filed a case against the airlines, for discrimination in terms of their services and the court accepted the case. They also demanded a compensation of ¥48,999 ($7,964), along with a public apology.

Spring airlines' regulations stated that passengers tested positive for HIV, would not be transported. This rule, however, has been deleted since the case gained coverage by the local media.

"The court's acceptance of this case signalled that HIV carriers can protect their rights through legal channels," said Cheng, an HIV volunteer based in Henan, to the Global Times.

Many of the HIV activists have lauded the move by the passengers, and believe that this is a landmark for campaigns against HIV discrimination in the country.

China has had a history of discriminating HIV patients in the recent past. It was only in 2010, the government of China had lifted a ban on foreigners who had HIV to travel to the country. Even in 2013, the government was heavily criticized when they tried to ban HIV positive patients from using the public baths.