By Ketkarn Boonpen,
AN HIV-positive mother has sought a blood test for her daughter, who she says is free of the disease, to make people feel comfortable about her five-year-old studying at the same school with other children, the Education Ministry’s permanent secretary Kamjorn Tatiyakavee said yesterday.
Kamjorn denied reports that the school required the blood test as a part of its recruitment process.
“It’s the girl’s mother who has initiated the blood test,” Kamjorn said after emerging from a meeting with Office of Basic Education Commission [Obec] secretary general Karoon Sakulpradit.
But Kamjorn conceded that the mother may have acted because of pressure from her community. He said the woman was a speaker for the rights of people living with HIV and a community leader, so locals knew about her infection.
“They might have suspected that her child may have the virus.”
He said the mother asked the school to contact a hospital to arrange a blood test in a move that is expected to shore up local people’s confidence that her daughter would not pose a threat to the health of other children.
Kamjorn said the school wrote to the hospital citing its recruitment process as a reason because it could not think of any other excuse for denying the girl’s enrolment.
The permanent secretary insisted that there was no discrimination in school admissions.
“Children won’t be able to sit in class only if they come down with a communicable disease and are at a stage that can spread diseases such as tuberculosis,” he said.
Obec’s Karoon said the uproar about the five-year-old girl’s blood test stemmed simply from miscommunication.
But Supalak Sittichak, a coordinator of the Thai Network of People Living with HIV/Aids who is based in the Northeast, told a different story. She said she had received a complaint from the girl’s mother.
“It’s discrimination. The Nakhon Phanom-based school has demanded a blood test, saying that it’s for the peace of mind of teachers and parents,” she said.
She said her network usually received three to four complaints each year at the start of a new semester. But the number of discrimination victims is believed to be much higher, as other victims simply don’t come forward.
Supalak joined other Aids activists yesterday in lodging a complaint with the Public Health Ministry, which has a policy against stigmatisation.
“The Public Health Ministry should contact the Education Ministry so that they can together create the right understanding about Aids/HIV among members of the public,” she said.
Permanent secretary of the Public Health Ministry Sopon Mekthon met with activists yesterday. He disclosed that his ministry was planning to curb stigmatisation, not just in schools but also at workplaces.