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3 HIV+ Students Banned From School In Indonesia

There were different opinions about the orphans–parents don’t want their children in classes with the HIV+ orphans.

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Sumatra, Indonesia. VOA

Authorities in a North Sumatra village have banned three HIV+ orphans from elementary school, and threatened the children, who are from outside the area, with expulsion from Nainggolan due to community fears of transmission.

The children, a boy and two girls, aged 7 to 11 years, were infected by transmission from their mothers, Berlina Sibagariang, executive secretary of the Batak Protestant Christian Huria AIDS Committee (HKBP), told VOA Indonesia. The orphaned children attended preschool and the Nainggolan State Primary School in North Sumatra for one day before they were expelled, in response to outcry from students and parents who learned of their HIV status, according to Sibagariang.

“We want those three children to enjoy their rights to go to school and get an education,” Sibagariang said, adding “the community hopes that the children will no longer attend local schools. They are afraid that their children will be infected with HIV.”

The children were removed from classes on October 22, and Sibagariang said the local community set an October 25 deadline for the children to leave the village.

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The survey also indicated that there was discrimination against HIV positive persons in healthcare settings, especially towards key populations..VOA

While an estimated five million people are infected with HIV in Asia, the rate of new infections has slowed in the last decade. But not in Indonesia, which now has an estimated 660,000 people living with HIV, according to the UNAIDS. According to the U.N. agency, Indonesia had 48,000 new HIV infections and 38,000 AIDS-related deaths in 2016, an increase in AIDS-related deaths of 68 percent from 2010. As of 2016, an estimated 3,200 Indonesian children were infected with HIV due to mother-to-child transmission.

There is, Indonesians activists note, ignorance of HIV and its transmission.
“Many people in our rural area still don’t really know what HIV/AIDS is, or the regulations covering it,” Puta Elvina, commissioner of Indonesia’s National Commission to Protect Children (KPAI) told VOA. In Nainggolan, “the school should educate the [Parent Teachers Association (PTA)] about HIV/AIDS so they know they don’t have to worry about it. [The PTA} should communicate to them how people become infected, how HIV is transmitted, etc. And the school has an obligation to those HIV-kids, to protect and support them. Actually not only the school, but also the local people (to support the kids) and the local government.”

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can only be transmitted from an infected person to another through direct contact of bodily fluids such as blood (including menstrual blood), semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk, according to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, a leading U.S. source of information on HIV and AIDS. “Blood contains the highest concentration of the virus, followed by semen, followed by vaginal fluids, followed by breast milk. … It is possible for an HIV-infected mother to transmit HIV before or during birth or through breast milk. Breast milk contains HIV, and while small amounts of breast milk do not pose significant threat of infection to adults, it is a risk for infants.”

The shunning behavior in Nainggolan is not unique. “HIV stigma is effectively universal, but its form varies from one country to another, and the specific groups targeted for AIDS stigma vary considerably,” says the University of California, Davis. “Whatever its form, HIV stigma inflicts suffering on people and interferes with attempts to fight the AIDS epidemic.”

HIV, Indonesia
A doctor draws blood from a man to check for HIV/AIDS at a mobile testing unit in Ndeeba, a suburb in Uganda’s capital, Kampala. VOA

Tiqoh, who has only one name, is an activist at Yayasan Pelita Ilmu (YPI), a non-governmental organization with a long track record on HIV/AIDS education in Indonesia, understands the difficulty of talking about HIV “with the local people, but perhaps the school could also involve doctors from the local clinic. Those parents and local people who refuse to take care these kids, or don’t want them to study in the same class as their children, they’re taking these actions because they don’t know much about HIV/AIDS. They’re just worry that their kids might be infected.”

HKBP is continuing talks with local government officials and the community as the Thursday deadline approaches in an attempt to stop expulsion of the children from Nainggolan.

“They said that we should remove those children because the local government hasn’t issued a permit to send children to those schools or even stay in that village,” said Sibagariang. “In fact, the home in that village – where we sent the children – is our home, an HKBP home. They have right to stay there. It’s our home!”

Local leader, Samosir Regent Rapidin Simbolon, told VOA that the HKBP hospital in Nainggolan once “accommodated the elderly, but now they accommodate children who are exposed to HIV.”

AIDS, Indonesia
Students with their faces painted with messages pose during an HIV/AIDS awareness campaign to mark the International AIDS Candlelight Memorial, in Chandigarh, India, May 20, 2018. (VOA)

So far, the talks have resulted in a suggestion to homeschool the children but the HKBP AIDS Committee rejected this option, saying it would isolate the children and paper over what they see as the real issue: misunderstanding of HIV-AIDS.

The committee criticized another local leader, Samosir Deputy Regent, Juang Sinaga, who called for the children to be expelled from the village and sent to the jungle.

Rapidin told VOA “I am responsible,” he said. “I will not allow the public to directly shun them. … We will protect (the children) so no one will take advantage of the situation. Be assured we are protecting them, we will even involve the police, if necessary. I guarantee that the children are being monitored.”

Also Read: HIV Diagnose In The LGBTQ Community Goes Down In Australia: Study

But the regent said that there were different opinions about the orphans–parents don’t want their children in classes with the HIV+ orphans, “while HKBP who said that [separating these children] is discriminating against HIV-people.”

“The HKBP does not want to understand us,” Rapidin said. “The three children who are positive are not from our region. They come from outside. We are actually very tolerant, it’s OK here. But they (HKBP) are insistent. The HKBP cannot insist like that. Nainggolan residents also have rights.” (VOA)

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By 2030, African Children to Make ‘Half of the World’s Poor’

African children are being left further and further behind and will make up more than half of the world’s poor by 2030

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Africa, Kids, Children, Poverty, Study
The United Nations reports more than a half million refugees have fled to neighboring countries to escape the ravages of war. Wikimedia Commons

African children are being left further and further behind and will make up more than half of the world’s poor by 2030, according to a new report.

The stark warning comes as more than 150 world leaders prepare to attend the U.N. Sustainable Development Summit in New York beginning Sept. 25 to work on tackling global poverty.

The United Nations has agreed on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). No. 1 on the list is eradicating extreme poverty by 2030. But the world will fall well short of that target, according to the report by Save the Children and the Overseas Development Institute, which delivers a devastating verdict on global efforts to eradicate extreme poverty among children in Africa.

“On our projection, children in Africa will account for around 55% of all extreme poverty in the world by 2030,” said Kevin Watkins, chief executive of Save the Children UK.

An estimated 87 million African children will be born into poverty each year in the 2020s, according to the report, which also says about 40% of Africans still live on less than $1.90 a day.

Africa, Kids, Children, Poverty, Study
Children recovering from malnutrition play at the Children hospital in Bangui, Central African Republic. VOA

“On average, women are still having four to five children, and it’s the part of the world where poverty is coming down most slowly, partly because of slow growth but also because of very high levels of inequality,” Watkins said. “A child born into poverty faces greater risks of illiteracy; greater risks of mortality before the age of 5. They’re between two and three times more likely to die before their fifth birthday. They are far less likely to escape poverty themselves, which means that they will become the transmission mechanism for poverty to another generation.”

The report criticizes African governments for failing to develop coherent policies, and also warns that the IMF, the World Bank and other donors are failing in their response.

ALSO READ: World is Decades Behind Schedule to Achieve Ambitious Goals to Fight Poverty, Inequality and Other Ills

Watkins said dramatic changes in approach are urgently needed.

“Transferring more monetary resources to children who are living in poverty has to be part of the solution,” Watkins said. “But we also know that money is not enough. It’s critically important that these children get access to basic nutritional services, the basic health interventions, and the school systems that they need to escape poverty.”

The report warns that if poverty reduction targets are not met, the world will also fall short on other sustainable development goals in education, health and gender equality. (VOA)