Australian writer Robert Dessaix has been refused a visa to enter China because he is HIV-positive.

Dessaix, 65, was part of an Australian delegation of authors and publishers due to travel to China next week, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.

The prizewinning author had been scheduled to speak at the Shangai International Literary Festival, the country's biggest showcase of foreign writers. Last night Dessaix's name was still on the festival programme.

"It's medieval. I feel snubbed and insulted, of course, and also humiliated," he said.

"There had been interventions at the highest level on my behalf, but they were refused, so I see it as a snub to Australia, not just to me."

The visa application guidelines stated that HIV status had no prejudicial bearing, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Dessaix said he had been told by Australian officials that although China did not give reasons for the visa refusal, his health status was the issue.