The only centre in China providing education to children who are HIV positive has decided to segregate HIV positive students from other exam takers during the college entrance tests.
According to a teacher at Linfen Red Ribbon School, the decision was made amid fears that the students may face discrimination from other students taking the same test. The school has 33 HIV positive students.
Recently, the school announced that they will take their college entrance exam known as the Gaokao which Chinese high school students have to take in order to be accepted to college. the exam is conducted in various centers depending on a student's serial number. Therefore, it is possible the students may face discrimination.
Keeping that in mind, Guo Xiaoping, president of the school, announced that it would prepare an examination room to allow 16 students to sit in the exam separately.
“Although our society is making progress, it's still unrealistic to say there is no discrimination. Some students may resist if they sit the exam in the same classroom with my children,” he said.
However, the decision created a furor online and led to criticisms from some on social media. The act by the school is considered to be discrimination itself. Many suggested that segregating young people with HIV would only serve to increase the stigma. Some also felt that instead of helping the students, the school is making things worse for them.
“These children deserve to be treated equally. For those parents who feel uncomfortable to let their healthy children take the exam in the same room with these kids, do they know that the HIV virus cannot be transmitted by air?” said one user.
The school was initially started in a vacant ward at Linfen Hospital and was later expanded and moved to a 60,000 sq. m campus in 2012, in the suburbs of the city. With the help of government funding, the school is free of charge and covers medical costs for students as well.
Despite massive progress in HIV treatment in China, the virus is entrenched in social stigma.
“Despite the extraordinary advances we have seen in the treatment of HIV, it remains one of the most stigmatized of all medical conditions. Children living with HIV may have a particularly hard time of it, especially considering that they may need to be on treatment from an age when they won’t fully understand why,” said Matthew Hodson, executive director of Aidsmap.
He further added, “Although China has a free, inclusive, nationwide, HIV care policy it is falling short of the UN’s targets of achieving 90 percent of people living with HIV diagnosed, 90 percent of these on treatment and 90 percent undetectable (the aim of HIV treatment).”
According to international AIDs-watch Alert, China is somewhat behind other countries when it comes to treating HIV.