Grim reminder

The act of the school expelling the three innocent children has crossed all boundaries.

This may not be the first time that HIV-positive students have been barred from attending school. Yet, the news report of three students being expelled from a school, merely four days after they had been enrolled, as two of them were HIV-positive while the third was free from the disease though her parents are. The act of the school administration expelling the three innocent children has crossed all humanitarian boundaries and is but condemnable. The school’s action cannot be justified because HIV/AIDS cannot be transmitted with students staying and studying together. The turnaround of the school, when it had understandably granted the three kids admission, seems to be the lack of awareness on their part. This particular incident is enough to show that education and awareness about the disease and its transmission are still low among the people, which reflects that the government has not been able to do the needful in this direction despite all the rhetoric on HIV/AIDS prevention and control. Now, the three children, instead of receiving the support and morale boost are being victimised. This is unfortunate when, in recent times, the patients with AIDS or are HIV-positive are beginning to receive exposure in a positive light.

This has been a sort of setback just when the National Action Plan 2008-2011, Nepal National Advocacy Plan 2008-2011 and National AIDS Spending Assessment 2007 had been launched barely three weeks back for effective advocacy on HIV/AIDS. It is true that plans are launched in Nepal for one or the other humanitarian purpose like for HIV/AIDS, but it is insufficient considering the gravity that the threat poses. The cosmetic way in which the budgetary allocations are made to fight the scourge is a point that has not received the advocacy that is so essential from those working in the field. What seems to have been forgotten by the planners and the concerned government line agencies is that the issue is multifaceted and multidimensional. It is not only the finding that a person is HIV-positive that is enough or that antiretroviral therapy has to be recommended, but the whole socio-economic perspective that has to receive due focus. Policy and legal framework have to fall in place besides generating awareness among people, expanding treatment and care to the infected and reducing the stigma and discrimination associated with the disease. All the desired thrusts are still a far cry in an alarming situation when more than 75,000 people are reported to be living with HIV in Nepal and 14 new infections are occurring everyday.

This presents a grim picture of the world of HIV-positive people in times when there ought to have been a definite improvement in the infection rates together with positive response from the people in general. Sadly enough, the case of the three students expelled from school just goes on to justify that the awareness level, despite the seemingly seen social and educational prosperity, has gone down and superstitious beliefs still hold the sway. In this, the cases of health professionals refusing to treat people with HIV comes as the most degrading act. To check discrimination against those who are HIV-positive, it is the government that has to urgently come up with relevant policies and laws to guarantee a life of dignity for the patients.