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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
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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.”

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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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Road Safety At The Core of Women Empowerment For This Indonesian Startup

It aims to attract 5 million members over the next three years, making Queensrides the biggest women's empowerment platform in Southeast Asia.

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Indonesia, Queensride
Queenrides women members take part in a workshop in Indonesia. VOA

Iim Fahima Jachja cannot operate a vehicle and relies on a driver to get around the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, but that did not stop her from putting road safety at the heart of her women’s empowerment startup.

Since launching in late 2016, Queenrides has attracted 200,000 members to join its website.

Aside from reading articles about lifestyle and financial management, members can also gather in person for workshops covering topics like sexual health and family planning.

But road safety has been a focus from the beginning said, Jachja, a mother of two.

“When you are safe on the road, you can be the best you want to be,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Jakarta.

 

Queensride
Iim Fahima Jachja, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Queenrides, Indonesia. Flickr

 

Road deaths are high in Indonesia, according to the transport ministry, which counted 162,000 fatalities last year, compared to 136,000 in 2015.

In a country undergoing rapid urbanization as incomes increase, more people are buying vehicles, putting stress on the road network.

Many drivers avoid taking tests by paying corrupt officials for driving licenses, said Jachja.

The road risks are rising for women in particular, she said, because changing social attitudes mean that more of them are working and commuting.

At the same time, relatively few women have taken driving lessons and tests to acquire licenses, she said.

Only about 20 percent of 7,500 Queensrides members surveyed said they had taken a driving test.

“This is a major issue – this is a crisis – but people haven’t noticed the situation,” said Jachja about the number of road deaths in Indonesia.

Low-income countries have fatality rates more than double those in high-income countries, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Queensride
Road deaths are high in Indonesia. Wikimedia Commons

There were 104 million registered vehicles in Indonesia, a nation of 238 million people, according to the WHO’s latest report on road safety published in 2015.

Driving Safely

As well as enabling its members to exchange views and learn more about road safety online, Queenrides arranges workshops with input from the ministry of transportation and traffic police.

Participants have gone on to take driving lessons and tests, said Jachja.

That trend could make Indonesia’s roads safer, said Liviu Vedrasco, a road safety expert at the WHO in Bangkok.

“There are some studies that suggest women are more careful and follow the rules better than men,” he noted.

One of the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations in 2015 is to halve the global number of deaths and injuries from road traffic crashes by 2020, said Vedrasco.

Queensride
Queenrides women members take part in a workshop in Indonesia. VOA

As the number of female drivers increases, Indonesia’s ministry of transportation has stepped up efforts to reduce crashes involving women by working with outside partners, said Budi Setiyadi, director of land transport at the ministry.

“Queenrides is needed for women riders in Indonesia to be given a good education in driving safely, because women have a primary role,” Setiyadi said in an email. “They can educate their children, their families, and the surrounding environment.”

Growing

As more Indonesian women join the workforce and take to the roads, Queensrides can also help them assert control in other areas of their lives, according to Jachja.

For example, about 30 members gathered last month in child-friendly cafe in Jakarta to discuss family planning, and strategies for educating their teenage children about sex.

The United States-based Johns Hopkins University sent experts to the workshop part of a program targeting “married women of reproductive age”, according to Dinar Pandan Sari of the university’s Center for Communication Programs in Jakarta.

Indonesia, Queensride
As the number of female drivers increases, Indonesia’s ministry of transportation has stepped up efforts to reduce crashes involving women Pixabay

“The fact that in just two years, Queenrides has been able to grow from an idea to 200,000 women joining their movement is remarkable,” Sari added.

Queenrides teams up with other organizations to provide information on issues like women’s rights, while members can also receive financial planning advice from institutions including Indonesia’s Bank Mandiri.

As Queensrides’ membership grows, revenue from advertising on the website should increase as well, allowing the startup to expand its programs, according to Jachja.

Also Read: 3 HIV=+ Students Banned From School In Indonesia

She said she aims to attract 5 million members over the next three years, making Queensrides the biggest women’s empowerment platform in Southeast Asia.

“If you can conquer Indonesia, it is easy to conquer any other area in the world,” said Jachja about her homeland, a sprawling archipelago of more than 17,000 islands, and a multitude of languages and cultures. “Conquering Indonesia is like conquering five countries at the same time.” (VOA)