The Burmese government is planning to conduct a survey to identify the prevalence of discrimination against HIV positive school children, according to a leading medical researcher.
It follows a study carried out by the Department of Medical Research last year, which revealed that over 4 percent of children living in households affected by HIV had been expelled as a result of their families’ status.
According to a head researcher, who asked not to be named, the department is now conducting a new survey focusing on children.
“We are currently conducting a survey specifically on children living with HIV – the findings will be published in a report sometime next year,” she told DVB.
“The previous survey focused on families living with HIV – we want to focus the current one on discrimination against children living with HIV in the education sector.”
“The discrimination is especially bad in schools, often committed by teachers themselves and also parents of other students – we would like to promote understanding among the teachers about children living with HIV, and to allow them to continue their education.”
She added that teachers should be given training on how to cope with HIV positive students.
According to the 2012 survey, over 40 percent of individuals living with HIV were forced to leave their jobs, while 22 percent have been denied jobs because of their status.
Burma has the third highest HIV infection rate in Asia, but spends less than 4 percent of its annual budget on health care. Campaigners estimate that between 15,000 and 20,000 HIV infected people die every year because of a lack of access to lifesaving anti-retroviral therapy.
The stigma associated with the disease presents an additional barrier to people living with HIV. Many people are shunned by their communities and families when their status is revealed.
“I used to live at my brother’s house, but my brother’s wife is very afraid of HIV. She used to check my skin to see if there were ulcers or pus discharge or something like that. And she told me to stay away from her children,” an HIV positive man told the NGO Médecins Sans Frontières last year.