Learning from Latur experience on HIV-positive children
Hasegaon is a small village 20 km from Latur where journalist Ravi Bapatley decided to set up a hostel for HIV-positive children. In May 2009, there were 15 HIV-positive children enrolled in the local zilla parishad school but two months later, the parents of some children decided to withdraw their wards protesting against this.
The parents felt that if their children were bitten by HIV-positive children it would be fatal and some demanded their wards be transferred to another school. Others felt that the HIV-positive children should be expelled. Some labelled the ashram as “AIDS school”.
The CFAR report said that despite immediate interventions the villagers remained undeterred and refused to send their children back to school.
Soon after the incident, there were ‘intense information education and communication campaigns’ by doctors and counsellors from government agencies and district health officials. Some meetings were also held with the parents and villagers during which their doubts about HIV transmission were addressed.
The fact- finding team also made some recommendations on tackling such situations. There was great hostility to Mr. Bapatley’s ashram, which has not diminished till today but he has managed to educate a number of children through the years. What was serious then was the disclosure of the identities of the children and the nature of their illness.
The efforts of the NGOs and community paid off and slowly the attendance in the zilla parishad school increased in a month’s time.
However, the ashram is still targeted, Mr. Bapatley told The Hindu on the phone that while students were not harmed, villagers had a while ago destroyed some ashram property and in 2013, 300 trees were burnt down in the ashram complex.
At present there are 52 students in the hostel and he makes sure that they continue their education in Latur.
Two girls passed the 12th standard recently and now the State Government has announced a five per cent reservation in hostels for HIV-positive children, he said.
Sanyogita Dhamdhere of CFAR said that its fact-finding report in Latur has been sent to the Union Health Secretary, National Aids Control Organisation (NACO) and the Goa Principal Secretary Parimal Rai so that the experiences from Hasegaon can be used to work with the community in Rivona.
Mr. Bapatley said he was willing to visit Goa and speak to the people there and try and resolve the issue.