Nepalese Students With Positive HIV Status Encouraged to Continue Their Education

2015-01-07

Kamal Kumar

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There is currently a huge stigma attached to having a positive HIV diagnosis in Nepal. In September 2009 two children with HIV who had been given scholarships to attend a private school in Kaski, Western Nepal, by an NGO were expelled due to pressure applied to the school from other parents.[1] HIV and AIDs are illnesses that are widely stigmatized and misunderstood, meaning children with positive diagnoses are often encouraged not to, or prevented from, completing their education. The educational rights of HIV positive children need to be protected to ensure that they are given the same opportunities as all other children to live their lives to its fullest. Charitable children’s associations, Local Education Officers, the vice president of PABSON Kaski (the private school association), and other key stake holders have been working together to ensure that this is the case. 

HIV In Nepal

Estimates from UNICEF in 2007 [2] suggest that approximately 75,000 people in Nepal are HIV-positive, including all age groups. The more conservative figures from the Government of Nepal's National Center for AIDS & STD Control report that as of the 15th July 2013 there are a total of 22,994 HIV positive people living in Nepal. [3] It’s worth noting that in both of these cases, neither contain statistics for children under the age of 15. The HIV situation in Nepal has evolved from a low prevalence into an epidemic.[4] HIV is no longer the death sentence it was considered to be in the early 1980s. Advances in testing and treatment mean that early diagnosis and effective therapies can be commenced soon after contracting HIV to allow you to remain in good health and to have a comparable life-span to anyone else.[5] That means that education and learning important life skills is just as valuable to the HIV child as it is to any other child. Discovering you have a long term or potentially life limited illnesses such as the diagnosis of an illness such as HIV, can however affect your motivation to continue in education and reach your full potential. Education about the realities of life with HIV is therefore essential for youths, school children, and college students both who are HIV positive and negative to remove the stigma and normalize the condition. It’s also important where possible to financially support those children from financially unstable backgrounds with grants and scholarships to ensure that they are able to rise above their health challenges and educationally achieve.

Sponsoring HIV Education

The Nepalese Government currently doesn’t offer any programs to sponsor education for children with HIV: they are given life-prolonging antiretroviral drugs but no social support.[6] However there is opportunity for HIV positive children whose families aren’t in a position to fund their education. A first-of-its-kind school in Nepal has been established to provide education to HIV-positive children who are excluded from public schools. The Saphalta HIV Siksha Sadan (which translates to “Successful HIV Home and School”) was founded in 2010, currently provides full time education and accommodation for 10 children aged between 3 – 10.[7] With many private and government run schools refusing to admit HIV positive children due to concerns about this affecting their business (with other parents withdrawing their children, for example) this school provides a final lifeline in ensuring these children receive the education they deserve. However with an estimated 5,000 children across the country affected by AIDs, this is merely a drop in the ocean of solving the problem and providing education for HIV positive children. Only removing the stigma of HIV and admitting HIV positive children into main stream schools can truly be the solution. Cultural change is hard to achieve and will involve long-term work with the community. However with organisations to create a greater awareness among parents and the community at large about the realities of HIV, change is not far away.

1 “Changing attitudes on inclusion of HIV positive children in schools”, Voluntary Service Overseas"
2 “Nepal Statistics”, UNICEF,  
3 “HIV situation of Nepal”, The National Center for AIDs and STD Control, 
4 “HIV and AIDs”, Save the Children, 
5 “Coping with HIV diagnosis”, STD Panels, 
6 “Nepal: HIV positive children, orphans neglected, Irin News,
7  “In Nepal, Helping AIDs orphans when no one else will”, HIV Plus Magazine,

Author: Emma Jones