Indian School Ostracized After Admitting HIV-Positive Children
March 10, 2003
Bency John, 7, and her brother Benson, 5, are the only pupils left in their school in Kollam in India's southern Kerala state, after their schoolmates were all yanked out by parents fearing the orphaned siblings could infect their children with HIV. As long as the HIV-positive pair remain at the state-run Kaithakuzhi lower primary school, the other pupils' parents have vowed not to send their children back to class. More than 100 children registered at the school have stopped attending lessons, said Headmistress Jameela Beevi.Adapted from:
Bency and Benson were admitted to the school in late February following a sit-in protest outside a government office by their grandfather after they had been turned out of several government schools because of their HIV status. "It is with much difficulty that I managed to secure admission," said Geevarghese John, their 65-year-old grandfather. "They had been consistently refused admission to various other schools."
Both children were born HIV-positive. They lost their father to AIDS in 1997 and their mother two years later.
C. Chacko of the school's Parent-Teacher Association said parents would not be willing to risk the lives of more than 100 students to educate two HIV-positive children. "None of us is sure how AIDS spreads," he said. "The other day, I read an article in a vernacular magazine that AIDS could be spread through saliva."
An official said a "sensitization" drive would be launched in Kollam to correct misconceptions about the spread of AIDS. "Pamphlets and brochures on AIDS are being distributed throughout the village and we will be conducting a sensitization seminar in the area next week," said C. Ramachandran, the village's health inspector. According to government figures, Kerala has around 7,000 people with HIV and an additional 1,200 with AIDS.
Agence France Presse
03.02.03; John Philip
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.