An HIV-positive seven-year-old boy in Bishnupur area of South 24 Parganas has been forced to leave school after his condition was leaked to other parents who have threatened to pull out their children from the institution if he returned.
Five months ago, the student was asked to leave the school for being HIV-positive. Since then he has remained at home, studying in his thatched hut and flying kites in his spare time, as his parents, both HIV positive, struggle to make ends meet, reported The Indian Express.
Shockingly, his maternal grandmother, who teaches Bengali in the same school, was allegedly forced to take an HIV test to prove her "purity" and has been the target of harassment.
The State Women and Child Development Minister Sashi Panja had ordered an investigation and asked the district Child Welfare Committee (CWC) to intervene in the matter following which the school agreed to take the boy in again. But the headmaster has denied that the boy was ever asked to leave school.
"There are other parents who initially didn’t want him to study in the school. But we never asked his family to not send the boy to school. He has not been coming of his own accord. If he comes back, he will not be harassed," headmaster Sanjib Naskar said.
But the boy's mother told Express that the school is thinking of putting the boy up in a separate room by himself, away from the company of his classmates. "That isn’t acceptable to me," she said.
Her husband, who ran a shop selling stationary goods, was detected with HIV in 2014. When people stopped buying from him, he was forced to take up work in a garment store in Kolkata.
Ironically, the family immediately informed the school after finding out that the boy was HIV positive so that he wouldn't accidentally infect anyone else. The information they shared with the headmaster was supposed to be confidential. But it was leaked to other parents and the family has been facing abuse ever since.
His mother said the child "says very little, choosing instead to play with his kite". He misses going to school.
"If the boy comes back, we will not let our son study with him," Express quoted a parent, Sudhip Mondal, as saying.
India has the most cases in the Asia-Pacific with about 2.1 million people infected with HIV in 2013, according to the World Health Organisation. India accounted for most of the estimated 340,000 new infections in the Asia-Pacific last year and any cut-back to prevention programmes risks seeing rates rise, reported Reuters.
HIV-AIDS is still a taboo subject in India and healthcare workers say the secrecy surrounding the cases crucially affects treatment.
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