South African High Court Rules in Favor of Nursery School That Rejected HIV-Positive Toddler; Appeal Planned
South Africa's High Court on Wednesday ruled that a Johannesburg nursery school "acted reasonably" when it deferred admission to an HIV-positive four-year-old girl, South Africa's Business Day reports (Kahn, Business Day, 10/22). Karen Pereira, the girl's foster mother, in September 2002 filed a lawsuit against Buccleuch Montessori Nursery School, saying that it "unfairly discriminated against" the child. According to Pereira's lawyer, Sharise Weiner, the school rejected Pereira's foster daughter after a panel of teachers decided that the school was "not prepared to deal with HIV-infected children." The girl, who has had HIV since birth, was previously rejected by three other nursery schools on the basis of her HIV status. The South African Department of Education in 1998 issued a policy intended to protect the rights of HIV-positive children to obtain an education. The teachers, who did not consult with disease experts, said they feared that the virus could be transmitted to other students or teachers, especially through saliva (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/20/02). The South African AIDS advocacy group AIDS Law Project said that it is planning to appeal the decision, Business Day reports. ALP attorney Leisl Gernholtz said, "We are really perturbed with the implications of the judgment because it gives nursery schools an opportunity to exclude children with HIV on the basis that they are not ready and creates an opportunity for schools that want to discriminate to do so." Gernholtz also said that the decision did not offer "guidance" on what schools should do to make sure that they are prepared to admit HIV-positive children, which is important because there are no government regulations protecting HIV-positive nursery school children, according to Business Day (Business Day, 10/22).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.