HIV-positive children attending schools across Tanzania must now wear a red ribbon to distinguish them from healthy children.
The ribbons, requested by worried parents, are meant as a way of ensuring ill pupils will not have to partake in any school-time activity that might affect their health. This includes tiring duties such as fetching and transporting water and sweeping the compound.
However, campaigners in the area argue that identifying HIV-positive children firstly alienates them from their fellow pupils, and secondly breaks the law, which is an offence punishable by up to three years in prison.
The law, passed in 2008, states that it is illegal to discriminate against, or identify, a person with HIV or Aids.
Around 5% of the Tanzanian population are thought to be HIV positive – that’s some 1.4 million people. This number is standard for most East African countries.
Msafiri Thomas, leader of an HIV/Aids community awareness scheme in the area, said: “Students wearing these ribbons are sometimes shunned by other pupils who don’t want to share or be near them because they fear they will be infected. There must be another way to help these children.”
However, the head of a Primary school in the northwest district of Kibaha argued that the ribbons were introduced for the benefit of HIV positive children only, and were unlikely to put them at risk of judgement from other pupils because disease and illness were, sadly, already common-place across most schools.
HIV and Aids also affects many people living in the UK. Unfortunately there is still stigma surrounding both conditions and dealing with it can be very difficult.
Counselling can provide support for people suffering with the conditions, and also for their friends and family.
To find out more, please visit our page on HIV and Aids.
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