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School children expelled over HIV fears

JAKARTA (UCAN): Fourteen Indonesian orphans with HIV—seven girls and seven boys aged between seven and 10-years-old—were expelled last week from a state-run school in Surakarta, in Central Java province in early February.
 
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 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,” Karawi, the school principal, told the paper.
 
Puger Mulyono, who heads the Surakarta Lentera Foundation, a non-government organisation 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.
 
“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.
 
On February 14, local education authorities organised 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, said, 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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