Two HIV-Positive Children in India Denied Admission To Schools; Government To Pay for Home Schooling
Bency and Benson John, two HIV-positive Indian AIDS orphans, will be home-schooled at the expense of India's Kerala state government after being denied admission to several state schools because of their HIV status, the Hindustan Times reports. The government will bear all of the expenses of their education, including the cost of the children's three private teachers, as well as their treatment expenses (Babu, Hindustan Times, 3/4). The children, who have been rejected from at least four other schools over the past year and a half, finally managed to secure a place at the Kaithakuzhi Upper Primary School, after last month staging a day-long fast with their grandfather, Geeverghese John, in front of the state Secretariat's office. However, the parents of the school's other 115 students refused to allow their children to attend classes until Bency and Benson were expelled. The children and their grandfather received several death threats from people in the community, as well as a denouncement from local politician Prathapa Varma Thampan, who said that the children "deserved no sympathy and ... should be isolated," according to Gulf News (Mathew, Gulf News, 2/28). After a "chaotic meeting" between government representatives and the local parent-teacher association, Kerala Education Minister Nalakath Soopy on Tuesday night announced the government's decision to the 500 people gathered at the school (BBC News, 3/5). "I am yet to receive the government order. If it is true, it will defeat the very purpose of our fight. This should not have happened in a progressive state like Kerala," John said (Hindustan Times, 3/4). A local official said that a "sensitization" drive would be launched in the area in order to correct misconceptions about the transmission of HIV. "Pamphlets and brochures on AIDS are being distributed throughout the village and we will be conducting a sensitization seminar in the area next week," C. Ramachandran, the village's health inspector, said. According to government estimates, Kerala currently has 7,000 HIV-positive people and 1,200 people living with AIDS (Philip, Agence France-Presse, 3/2). More in-depth information on AIDS in India is available online on the kaisernetwork.org HIV/AIDS Issue Spotlight page.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.