Admission to HIV-positive kids prompts protest in Gujarat village

Admission of 26 HIV positive girls to the government primary school at Amboli village in the district has triggered protest by parents of other children.

As the parents have threatened to pull out their wards if these admissions are not cancelled, officials are trying to dispel their fears about HIV infection.

"Over 210 students and their parents, majority of them from Halpati and Vasava communities, are currently staging a sit-in outside the primary school," said Ali S Joban, husband of the village sarpanch Hameeda Ali.

"The villagers fear that their wards are at risk if they go to school with HIV-positive students as children fight with each other and even bite at times, and it is not possible to keep a constant watch over them," Joban said.

'Gujarat State Network of People Living with HIV Aids', an NGO which runs shelter-home for HIV infected children, got these 26 girls admitted to various classes between standard I to VII at the primary school in Amboli last month.

To maintain secrecy, NGO informed only the principal about the children's health status, but how the information leaked was not known, an executive with the NGO said.

District officials have taken a firm stand, saying that they cannot discriminate against those with the disease. "District officials have assured us that they are not going to discriminate against these students," an NGO executive said.

"State-level experts, community leaders, and officials from health as well as revenue departments have been answering all the queries of the villagers, and trying to create awareness on the issue," District Collector J P Shivhare said.

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