The Jakarta Post
The Indonesia AIDS Coalition (IAC) has urged the government to establish a special working unit to increase public awareness about HIV/AIDS following recent cases in Surakarta, Central Java, and Samosir Regency, North Sumatra, of students living with HIV/AIDS being prevented from attending school following complaints from parents of other students.
Earlier this month in Surakarta, 14 students of Purwotomo 74 public elementary school, who were identified as HIV positive, were transferred to special schools after protests from parents of other students. Parents and guardians of other students allegedly told the school’s management they would transfer their children to another school if the school’s management allowed the students with HIV to continue attending. The school's principal said he was of the view that every child had the right to education. However, he said he did not have a choice and was forced to transfer the students, who were studying in the first through to fourth grades.
A similar case also occurred in Samosir regency in October last year, in which three HIV-positive orphans were not allowed to attend Welipa kindergarten and Nainggolan public elementary school by locals who feared they might get infected with the virus. They were also threatened with exile from the regency. However, after mediation involving school management, the local community and the regency administration, it was suggested that the children be homeschooled.
“This is very tragic and a systemic failure,” Aditya Wardhana, the executive director of the Indonesia AIDS Coalition (IAC), told The Jakarta Post on Monday.
He said the government had caused a “setback” by terminating the National AIDS Commission (KPAN), which had representative offices across the country and had operated for more than 10 years, in 2017 following 2016’s Presidential Regulation on the commission for AIDS prevention signed by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo. AIDS control and prevention has been handled by regional health agencies ever since.
“The agencies only handle HIV/AIDS from a health perspective. However, it must involve other aspects, such as social, economic and even the psychological aspects of each person infected with the virus,” Aditya said.
He also said it was difficult for health agencies to intervene in school decisions because that required coordination with local education agencies.
“The President should establish a special cross-ministerial working unit only for this issue in a bid to prevent this form of discrimination against children with HIV/AIDS in schools,” he said.
Meanwhile, Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) commissioner Jasra Putra urged the mayors or regents involved to find a solution to discrimination against children with HIV/AIDS because the primary and elementary school were under their supervision.
“They need to instill the school stakeholders, including teachers and heads of the schools, with the same perception regarding this issue,” he told the Post.
Jasra said further that parents must also be made aware of the issue so they would not interfere or provoke school managements to expel students infected with the virus.
“This concern will keep coming up if local governments do not help them to understand," he said.
According to Jasra, each of the student’s health should be confirmed.
“By doing this, they can prevent the HIV positive children from being isolated from their friends,” he added.
Director of elementary school development at the Education and Culture Ministry, Khamim, stressed that each child must get an education. Both the health and education agencies in municipalities across the country have conducted campaigns about HIV/AIDS prevention, however, parents remain worried about their children being infected by their friends with HIV/AIDS.
“Health agencies informed the parents that the children would not transmit their viruses to their children, but the parents wanted the infected children out of the school,” he told the Post. (das)