Indonesian state-school expels kids over HIV fears

Protests and threats by parents force NGO, authorities to relocate 14 children
Indonesian state-school expels kids over HIV fears

An activist shows a red ribbon, the symbol of HIV/AIDS awareness, during a campaign in Surabaya in this 2014 file photo. A school in Central Java has expelled 14 HIV-infected children following protests by parents. (Photo by Juni Kriswanto/AFP)

Fourteen Indonesian children with HIV have been forced to relocate to different schools after a state-run elementary school expelled them following protests by parents.

The children — seven girls and seven boys aged from 7-10 years old — are orphans and were expelled last week from their school in Surakarta, in Central Java province.

The expulsions were the result of a backlash from parents, who discovered the children were HIV positive during a parents-teacher meeting in January, the Jakarta Post reported.

The parents allegedly threatened to remove their children from the school if the orphans with HIV were not expelled.

“We had no choice. We accepted the students because everyone has the right to education … until this wave of protests started to come in,” school principal Karawi told the paper.

Puger Mulyono , who heads the Surakarta Lentera Foundation, an NGO that runs a home for orphans with HIV and looks after the children, said nothing could be done to prevent the expulsion.

A meeting between the school, the foundation and parents to try and reach some compromise failed because the parents were determined the children had to leave the school.

“The parents couldn’t accept it. They feared their children could contract the virus,” Mulyono said.

He cited a similar case in October last year in North Sumatra province when education authorities there barred three children with HIV from attending school after caving in to protests from parents who feared their children could contract the virus.

The 14 children in West Java have since been found places in other schools.

On Feb. 14, local education authorities organized a meeting between foundation representatives and principals and teachers from several other state-run schools in the area.

Local child protection and health officials also attended the meeting.  

“The children will be sent to schools located near the foundation’s home,” Joko Lelono from the Surakarta Education Service Unit told ucanews.org, adding that there are at least nine state-run and private elementary schools nearby.

According to the latest figures from UNAIDS Indonesia had 48,000 new HIV infections and 38,000 AIDS-related deaths in 2016. Of the new infections, 3,200 of them were children, due to mother-to-child transmission.

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