Home  |  Life  |  Family  |  Interests  |  Views  |  Gallery  |  Contact 

HIV Discrimination

A government-aided school in Kerala, under a Congress led Government slammed its doors on two HIV positive siblings. This was when Congress president Sonia Gandhi was addressing AIDS 2004 - XV International AIDS Conference in Bangkok.

Ananthu, 6, and his sister Akshara, 8, returned empty-handed from Sree Narayana School in the northern Kannur district after a group of parents mounted a resistance, fearing that their children would also get infected by mingling with the two HIV positive kids.

This is not the first instance of HIV positive siblings being sent out or denied admission in Kerala. Benson and Benzy, who had lost their parents to AIDS, had to wage a protracted battle last year to gain admission to a regular school last year. The setting was similar. The villagers who learnt that the kids were HIV positive in fact prevented their children from attending classes.

In most of the civilized world, an individual's HIV status is a confidential matter between patient and doctor, and schools are accordingly unentitled to inquire about their pupils' HIV status.

Although HIV/AIDS is a major public health issue in Kenya, its specific impact on infected school children did not receive media attention until a children's home caring for HIV-infected orphans sued the government, because its children had been rejected by various public schools by virtue of their condition.

Catholic Father Angelo D'Agostino, who runs the Nairobi-based Nyumbani children's home, said it was spending about US $14,000 yearly on maintaining its 41 children attending a private school, who continued to do so even after the government had introduced free primary school education January 2003.

The high-profile case, which Nyumbani won, highlighted the daily discrimination being suffered by many of the country's HIV-infected orphans. "It [the case] will help to break down the barrier of discrimination and stigma. The kids [now] go to public schools. It will be tough, but it has to be done,".

However, according to Chris Ouma, an HIV/AIDS project officer with the UN Children's Fund, the problem of admitting children infected with the HIV virus to Kenyan schools was largely attributable to parents bringing pressure to bear on schools to reject such children - as opposed to government policy.

"This is not a government problem. As partners, we are sure the government recognises the rights of these children," he said. "What we need is education programmes to sensitise parents that the kids have a right to learn, and that they do not present any danger if the right precautions are taken."

In response to the HIV crisis in Kenya, the education ministry had begun providing regular training for teachers through government- and NGO-sponsored seminars to discuss HIV/AIDS-related problems in schools, and ways of supporting pupils infected and affected by HIV/AIDS, Ndung'u said. "We go to the seminars to make it easier for us to deal with the situation."

In addition to counselling, the Kenyan government also recently introduced HIV/AIDS education into the primary school curriculum.

Although HIV-related illnesses tend to occur among children in earlier classes, most schools have started an HIV/AIDS counselling programmes, but only for pupils belonging to the more affluent sectors of society. "Older children need more education as they understand more about the stigma related to the disease," Nding'u observed. "Younger children do not discriminate against others, because they don't know about the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS."

Ndung'u has noticed that older children at her school are beginning to become increasingly sympathetic to chronically ill fellow pupils, even exempting them from heavy class tasks such as cleaning. "The children have learned to support their colleagues. They don't laugh at their colleagues any more. They even request to go and see a sick colleague in hospital," she said.

Perhaps proper information and awareness on how HIV infection is dealt with around the world may help the Kerala Government.

Given below is the Model Guideline published by the Longwood University in the USA.


The Public School Division will work cooperatively with the Health Department to ensure compliance with Virginia Code 22.1-271.3 for school attendance of children infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

  • Students are expected to be in compliance with an immunization schedule (Article 2, 22.1-271.2); however, some required immunizations may be harmful to the health of the student who is HIV infected or has AIDS. Students who are HIV infected or have AIDS may get an exemption from complying with the requirements (Virginia Code 22.1-27.2, C). School personnel will cooperate with public health personnel in completing and coordinating immunization data, exemptions, and exclusions, including immunization forms.

  • Mandatory screening for HIV infection is not warranted as a condition for school entry. Upon learning a student is HIV infected or has AIDS, the superintendent will consult with the individual's family and physician or a health official from the local department to determine whether the student is well enough to stay in school. Since it is known that HIV is not transmitted through casual contact, any student who is HIV infected will continue education in a regular classroom assignment unless the health status interferes significantly with performance. If a change in the student's program is necessary, the superintendent or designee, family, and physician or health official will develop an individual plan, which is medically, legally, and educationally sound. If the HIV student is receiving special education services, the services will be in agreement with established policies.

  • Parents/guardians may appeal decisions for restriction or exclusion as determined by the school division's established procedures.

  • All persons privileged with any medical information about HIV infected students shall be required to treat all proceedings, discussions, and documents as confidential information. Individuals will be informed of the situation on a "Need to Know" basis with written consent of the parent/guardian.

  • Universal precautions for handling blood will be implemented within the school setting and on buses. To ensure implementation of the proper standard operating procedures for all body fluids, the guidelines from the Virginia Department of Health will be followed. Inservice training will be provided to all school personnel. Training will include local division policies; etiology, transmission, prevention, and risk reduction of HIV; standard operating procedures for handling blood and body fluids; and community resources available for information and referral. Periodic updates will be supplied through inservice or memoranda.

  • Comprehensive and age-appropriate instruction on the principal modes by which HIV is spread and the best methods for the reduction and prevention of AIDS are required to encourage the support and protection of the HIV infected student. To enhance school attendance, the school division will collaborate with public and private organizations in the provision of support services to HIV infected students.
  • Schools are key settings for educating children about HIV/AIDS and for halting the further spread of the HIV infection. Success in carrying out this function depends upon reaching children and young adults in time to reinforce positive health behaviours and alter the behaviours that place young peopleat risk. Schools reach children and adolescents between the ages of 5 and 18, and have excellent resources for delivering effective education: skilled teachers; an interactive educational process that occurs over time; a variety of learning opportunities; materials and methods; and the ability to involve parents in their children’s learning. In combating HIV infection, the crucial responsibility of schools is to teach young people how to avoid either contracting the infection or transmitting it to others and to serve as a catalyst for the development of HIV-related policies that are based on the most current scientific knowledge about HIV and AIDS. In doing so, schools have the opportunity to make important improvements in the quality of health education provided to young people world wide as a step towards improving global health.A new initiative, Focusing Resources on Effective School Health (FRESH), launched at the World Education Forum in Dakar, Senegal (April 2000), and sponsored by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization(UNESCO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank, signals the commitment of these agencies to assist national governments to implement school based health programmes in efficient, realistic and results-oriented ways.

    With respect to the growing HIV/AIDS epidemic, the four pillars of the FRESH approach are:

  • Clear school health policies on HIV/AIDS discrimination;
  • A healthy environment;
  • Skills-based education for the prevention of HIV/AIDS;
  • School-based counselling and student clubs for HIV/AIDSprevention.

    It is aimed at providing teachers and other possible ‘HIV/AIDS educators’ with guidance on how to develop and implement an effective school-based programme for education on HIV/AIDS prevention. It focuses on different methods of teaching HIV/AIDS curricula within the classroom.The vast experience gained internationally over the last decade and a half in developing and teaching diverse programmes and curricula to educate school children on HIV/AIDS prevention has yielded a well established set of essential considerations for effective school based HIV/AIDS prevention curricula.

    Copyright © 2007 Jishi Samuel