A public elementary school in Indonesia has expelled 14 orphaned children, following complaints about their HIV-positive status. In exclusive interviews, RT spoke with the ostracized children and the NGO that cares for them.
The 14 children – who attended from first through to fourth grade – were reportedly shunned from the school, in Surakarta, Central Java, after parents were made aware of their taboo health condition in January.
“Parents from the school – all of them without exception – denied the presence of my children and threatening to stop their children from going to school,” Yunus Prasetyo, head of Lentera Foundation, the NGO which takes care of the HIV-positive children, told RT. He said that the children under his charge are used to this kind of rejection and discrimination – but that they would persevere and find a new, more accommodating school.
“These children have to face so many obstacles after entering school from kindergarten. We’re used to it and will stay strong.”
Human immunodeficiency viruses (HIV), attacks the immune system and can lead to immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). According to Prasetyo, the prejudice faced by his young charges comes from a lack of public understanding about the virus. HIV is “not easily spread to others, it’s just a virus in their body,” he noted.
Lentera is now working with regional administrators to find a new school for the children – who are eager to return to their studies, and the playground.
“For almost a week these children are not going to school, they are very sad with the decision, and they really need to play with others again. They keep asking ‘when will we go to school again?’” Prasetyo said.
One of the children who spoke with RT said she was waiting to “move to another school” so that she could “play again with my friends.”
Indonesia has struggled to combat the spread of HIV and AIDS. In 2016, the Southeast Asian nation had 48,000 new HIV infections and 38,000 AIDS-related deaths, according to UNAIDS data. Since 2010, new HIV infections have decreased by 22 percent – but AIDS-related deaths have increased by 68 percent.
Unfortunately, the discrimination and misunderstanding surrounding HIV remains another obstacle to containing the virus. In October, an Indonesian village banned three orphans with HIV, aged 7 to 11, from going to school. The children were later asked to leave the village entirely.
Like this story? Share it with a friend!