Relevant authorities in Vietnam are finding it hard to help HIV/AIDS-infected children go to schools despite great efforts to thwart public prejudice.
A teacher and her HIV/AIDS-infected students at Mai Hoa Centre in Cu Chi District. Photo by Vn Express.
“HIV/AIDS-infected children’s dream of going to school is legitimate. But the real situation has proven that these children have to conceal their disease when going to school,” said doctor Tieu Thi Thu Van, deputy head of the Ho Chi Minh City Committee for HIV/AIDS Prevention.
This and other opinions were presented by experts at a seminar on the issue held in Ho Chi Minh City on December 22.
“This is because any children detected having HIV/AIDS are facing strong reactions from both schools, authorities and parents,” Van stated after her two-year study on social reactions when bringing such children into the community.
Van attributed that the most prominent case happened at An Nhon Dong Primary School in southern Cu Chi District in the 2009-2010 school year. When the Mai Hoa Centre brought 15 HIV/AIDS-infected children to school for admission, parents of other students stood in front of the school to prevent these children from entering. Then, they rushed to the District’s People Committee Office to request banning HIV/AIDS-infected children from being admitted.
“The majority of parents reacted strongly by taking their children back home despite efforts to give explanations and propaganda,” she said, noting that only 40 out of 269 pupils stayed in school on that day.
To foster HIV/AIDS-infected children’s study, the school opened a division for these 15 children to study right at the centre.
The same prejudice appeared at a nursery school in District 11 in 2009 when the principal declined admitting HIV-infected kids.
In 2010, parents of pupils at a primary school in Nha Be District took their children to another school for study when they found out some HIV/AIDS-infected children were studying at the school.
Regarding the public prejudice, Cao Thi Gai, Vice Chairman of Cu Chi District’s People Committee, wondered out loud, “Have we have done enough to raise public awareness? Many people think that HIV/AIDS is a terrible thing that could cause death by only touches. Although we have provided a wide range of information, we have not yet been able to change public opinion.”
Nguyen Thi Minh Phuong, head of the Xuan Vinh Group which houses 200 HIV/AIDS-infected children, emphasised the important role of the education sector in assisting these children in going to school plus support from local authorities.
Doctor Nguyen Trong An, Deputy Director of the Department of Child Care and Protection proposed dismissal to principles who are not enthusiastic in supporting these children’s study in accordance with current laws and regulations.
“The most important thing is to disseminate information to help people fully understand and sympathise as well as seek community support for children with HIV/AIDS in going to school,” doctor Van said, adding that this is the responsibility of the entire community.
Ho Chi Minh City now has over 60,000 children who are infected with or affected by HIV/AIDS disease.
Currently, Vietnam has 228,680 people living with HIV/AIDS, of whom 48,368 have died of the disease according to the Ministry of Health. Around 15,000 new HIV carriers are reported per year.
Ho Chi Minh City has the highest number of HIV-infected people in Vietnam comprising of 23% of the total figure. Hanoi ranks second with 8%.