Reuters Profiles School For HIV-Positive Children

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Reuters on Sunday profiled the Gokul private school,which is located in Bhoogaon, India, andprovides 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 betweenages two and 16, Reuters reports. All of the students contractedHIV at birth, and they receive access to antiretroviral drugs. None of the currentstudents has progressed to AIDS, but seven children have died at the schoolduring the past few years, Reuters reports.

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"Gokul was born out of the social rejection of these children,"Ujwala Lawate, the school's managing trustee, said, adding, "Some of themwere sent from government remand homes; some we picked up from villages; andsome were brought in by their families." According to Lawate, the localcommunity threatened the school when it was established. "They said ourchildren were a risk," she said. Local residents agreed to the schoolafter the government health workers said they would ensure that the childrenwere kept within the walls of the school's campus, Reutersreports.

Some critics say the school is fueling stigma against the children byseparating them. "Instead of separate schools, we should fight for equalrights of" an HIV-positive child, Meena Sheshu, whose HIV/AIDS advocacygroup Sangram opposes the school, said. "No child should be thrown out ofschool. But a separate school only institutionalizes the stigma anddiscrimination," she added. Lawate said critics are not addressing the"practical problems," adding, "While we debate what is right andwrong, children are being discriminated against."

According to Reuters, the Indian government remains ambiguousabout the issue. It gives financial support to schools such as Gokul and saysthat no school should reject any student, but it also has not banneddiscrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS. The Indian government estimatesthat 50,000 children younger than age 15 contract HIV annually in the country, Reutersreports (Mukherjee, Reuters, 1/13).

Reprintedwith permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign upfor email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Reportis published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. KaiserFamily Foundation.

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