Reuters Profiles School for HIV-Positive Children in IndiaReuters on Sunday profiled the Gokul private school, which is located in Bhoogaon, India, and provides education for HIV-positive children. According to Reuters, children at the school often have been expelled from "normal" schools, orphaned or abandoned by their families. Gokul has 53 students between ages two and 16, Reuters reports. All of the students contracted HIV at birth, and they receive access to antiretroviral drugs. None of the current students has progressed to AIDS, but seven children have died at the school during the past few years, Reuters reports.
"Gokul was born out of the social rejection of these children," Ujwala Lawate, the school's managing trustee, said, adding, "Some of them were sent from government remand homes; some we picked up from villages; and some were brought in by their families." According to Lawate, the local community threatened the school when it was established. "They said our children were a risk," she said. Local residents agreed to the school after the government health workers said they would ensure that the children were kept within the walls of the school's campus, Reuters reports.
Some critics say the school is fueling stigma against the children by separating them. "Instead of separate schools, we should fight for equal rights of" an HIV-positive child, Meena Sheshu, whose HIV/AIDS advocacy group Sangram opposes the school, said. "No child should be thrown out of school. But a separate school only institutionalizes the stigma and discrimination," she added. Lawate said critics are not addressing the "practical problems," adding, "While we debate what is right and wrong, children are being discriminated against."
According to Reuters, the Indian government remains ambiguous about the issue. It gives financial support to schools such as Gokul and says that no school should reject any student, but it also has not banned discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS. The Indian government estimates that 50,000 children younger than age 15 contract HIV annually in the country, Reuters reports (Mukherjee, Reuters, 1/13). This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.