The recent plight of HIV+ve children has been making headlines. Denied school, then readmitted, then targeted. As usual once again it is good copy for the media and we have picture of the little souls with their faces blurred but ever so recognisable flashed on the screens with obsessive regularity. And the now trendy QOTDs (read question of the day) pertain to this issue: should HIV+ve kids be denied schools? and more of the same.
This heart wrenching incident brings many matters to the fore. The problem of these children does not seem to stem from the authorities but from parents of other children and their misconceptions and fears. The stigma attached to AIDS is mind boggling as we ourselves have experiences at pwhy. When we initiated awareness classes on AIDS, some parents stopped their children from coming to the centre and accused us of being immoral! People from all walks of life seem to associate HIV to loose morals and obliterate the many other causes.
Campaigns have failed to highlight real issues such as its multiple causes and its transmission. hence all HIV+ve patients are denied basic humane behaviour and sensitivity. I recently visited a patient who had contracted the virus through an ill-fated transfusion and was admitted to a hospital. I was shocked to see that rather than have a small sign or code to indicate her status, a huge placard bearing the words BIO HAZARD was hung on her bedpost reminding one of the yellow stars of the Nazi days. What could have been done discreetly was unfortunately done in the most uncaring way.
To the question should kids be denied school the answer has to sadly be yes as long as the environment is not conducive to their presence; yes as long as their status is branded to one and all; yes as long as they are not accepted wholeheartedly for placing them in the midst of a polemic can be destructive.
The QOTDs on this issue should have been addressed to each one of us as in a simple: would you accept to have an HIV+ve kid in your environment?
Wonder what the answer would be then?