Children with HIV/AIDS or with HIV-positive parents still face rejection and discrimination at school, hindering their education and development, activists say.
“Despite the various activities that have been held since 2009, none [of the schools] have ever answered the needs of HIV/AIDS children or those with HIV-positive parents,” Aditya Wardhana, from the Indonesia AIDS Coalition, said on Wednesday.
Aditya said that unlike a decade ago when retroviral treatments were unavailable, children with HIV now have a high rate of survival and thus a greater opportunity to grow.
However, he said, many children faced discrimination at school once their HIV status became known.
“Schools sometimes reject the children because the teachers lack information on HIV,” he said.
Aditya said that convincing teachers and schools to accept the children and not discriminate against them was easier than persuading the parents of the other children, who often staunchly refuse HIV/AIDS children the right to sit in the same school as their children.
Baby Rivona Nasution, a national coordinator of the Indonesian Association of Positive Women (IPPI), said that many members were becoming increasingly worried about discrimination against children at school.
“The government should take action against schools discriminating against children or allowing discrimination to take place,” she said.
Baby said that she was worried about her own child whom she said was soon to reach school age.
On World AIDS Day last year, the country was jolted by an incident where the Don Bosco school in North Jakarta rejected a child because her father, Fajar Jasmin, was HIV-positive. The school argued that it was the other parents who rejected the child, and it demanded that the parent submit a letter certifying that the child was not infected with HIV.
Iswandi Mourbas, a commissioner of the Indonesian Commission on Child Protection (KPAI), said the country’s laws guaranteed the right of every children to education and health services that were free from discrimination.
KPAI itself, he said, had recorded many rejections of HIV-positive children, as well as those with infected parents, by schools.
Badriyah Fahyumi, the KPAI commissioner for education, called on the government to form a special unit to monitor such discrimination at schools.
She said that many parents often could not tolerate the discrimination against their children and instead opted to take the child out of their school.
KPAI chairwoman Maria Ulfa Ansor said the education and culture minister should issue a policy that could be used as an instrument for the commission to monitor discrimination against children.
Her statement came following a public uproar that greeted reports of bullying of a newly enrolled high school student by his seniors at a private school in Pondok Indah, South Jakarta.