Strong laws sought to fight discrimination against HIV-hit

New Delhi: Advocating the need for a strong law to fight discrimination against HIV-infected, civil society members here on Wednesday denounced the recent act of a Madurai school which barred entry of a 12-year-old who tested positive for the virus.

Speaking at an event organised by AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), Daisy David, advocacy officer with World Vision India, and an HIV-positive woman herself, said, "Our concern is that the children infected with HIV should live without any discrimination and incidents like what happened in Madurai should be stopped."

In a shocking incident, a school in Tamil Nadu`s Madurai district sent a 12-year-old home after his teacher found out that he was HIV-positive. The matter came to light after his mother approached NGO, Madurai Network of Positive People, for help.

Stressing the need for bringing HIV Bill without any delay, Daisy said, "We demand that the government bring in a strong HIV Bill and implement the laws strictly so that the discrimination meted out to the HIV-infected is stopped.

Speaking on the occasion, Terri Ford, Senior Director of Global Advocacy and Policy for AHF said, "It is unfortunate that this teacher and school officials in Madurai showed such a shocking lack of knowledge of the basic facts about HIV and how it is spread, and are instead reacting with ignorance and prejudice."

Making it clear that HIV infection does not spread by sharing food and space with the infected person, Jones said, "In 2012, 30 years after HIV/AIDS was discovered, we should all know the basic facts of safety and transmission.

"This young boy in Madurai is not a threat to his classmates. The bigger threat is the perpetuation of stigma and discrimination. Tolerance and acceptance should be modelled by teachers and elders," Jones said.

"More than one lakh children in India are HIV-positive", Dr Shibu Cheruvelil, Country Programme Manager AHF India, said, adding there is a need to protect such children from stigmatisation and humiliation and the government should ensure equal rights to the AIDS victims in all spheres.

Daisy also demanded that schools denying admission to children with HIV should face strict action under the Right to Education (RTE) Act.