Schools across country spurn HIV-hit children

Over 60 children were denied admissions in the schools in various states in last four years because they were infected with HIV.

Such children continued to face discrimination despite a law guaranteeing the right to free and compulsory education to children came into effect from April 1, 2010.
The instances of the violation of the fundamental rights of these children from 2008-09 to 2011-12 have been recorded by the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO).

The Human Resource Development Ministry claims that the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) conducts advocacy programme to sensitise principals and teachers to ensure that students infected with HIV/AIDS are treated with dignity and respect. Human Resources Minister Kapil Sibal did not respond to a request for his comments on the issue.

Sources in the CBSE claim that there is ‘no clear policy’ to deal with such cases.
“The Right of Education Act prohibits discrimination on any ground. Under the law, the state governments are required to ensure implementation of the law in its letter and spirit,” a ministry official said.

Andhra Pradesh, which accounts for five lakh cases of HIV/AIDS as per a latest government report, came at the top of the list with the NACO recording as many as 27 cases in the state, where children infected with HIV were denied admissions in schools.

West Bengal came second where at least 13 such cases  were reported. In Haryana, at least nine such children were denied admissions, four in Kerala, three Uttar Pradesh and one in Maharashtra. The number of such cases would be much higher than the data collected by the NACO, said non-government organisations and activists working to protect the rights of the HIV infected persons. “We keep receiving reports about schools denying HIV infected students. We swiftly act on such instances and help them,” country programme manager of AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) Shibu Cheruvelil told Deccan Herald.

According to a latest government report, The total number of people living with HIV (PLHIV) in India is estimated at 2.4 million with uncertainty bounds of 1.93 to 3.04 million in 2009.

Dearth of laws

Cheruvelil pointed out that India had enacted laws to protect the rights of various sections including those suffering from disability. “But, there is no law to protect the rights and interests of people suffering from HIV/AIDS. We need a strong legislation statute to address HIV/AIDS – its prevention, its treatment, and the manner in which we respond to the people affected by it,” he added.

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