This current event post is contributed by Gabby. What is the media saying about children with special needs? Read this controversial piece about HIV and AIDS testing in schools in South Africa. Thank you and enjoy!
This article, although not specifically addressing children who are born with learning disabilities, considers the impact of HIV in South Africa’s public schools. Throughout the past decade South Africa has been struggling with controlling an HIV epidemic of unbelievable proportions; although the country was the last nation in Sub-Saharan Africa to be hit with the disease, a fragmented health care system under the Apartheid regime was inefficient in confining the spread of the virus. Thus, South Africa now possesses the highest HIV prevalence rate in the world (approximately 20%) and the number of individuals infected is increasing steadily. Various public health tactics have been implemented with little success, largely due to the failing economy and poor living conditions endured by the majority of civilians.
I chose this media source because it combines two topics which I am very passionate about: the educational system and public health. This article discusses the consequences of implementing mandatory HIV testing in schools throughout the country. The two main challenges of screening students discussed in this article are confidentiality and consent- students must be willing to be tested at school and their status must be kept private from their peers at school. If students test positive, it is explained how they will be provided with social support and treatment will be administered soon after diagnosis.
After initially skimming this article, I was immediately opposed to the idea of HIV testing in schools. I thought students should learn about the disease first in health class, and then opt to be tested once they become sexually active. A student’s education should be distinct from the healthcare they receive, and it is possible that knowing their status would only distract from their school experience and eradicate any motivation to succeed a child should possess in the classroom. However, I then began contemplating the severity of the HIV epidemic in South Africa. Adolescents largely resist being tested for STDs, and it is rare for a teenager living in a township to know their HIV status. I agree with the article that mandatory screening in schools would be a beneficial public health tactic. Although this idea seems so distinct from anything we experience in an American school, in South Africa this concept must be seriously considered, for millions of lives are at stake.
After you read this article, please take the time to consider the following questions:
1) After learning about the psychological and social development of children, do you think that kids as young as 12 are cognitively equipped to handle a positive diagnosis of HIV? In what ways will knowing their HIV status influence a student’s performance in the classroom?
2) In the United States, various STDs are serious public health concerns in the student age population. How do you think American students and parents would react to the implementation of mandatory STD testing? How would you personally respond?
3) While reviewing previous posts in this blog, I was surprised to see images of Chinese kindergarten students being checked for signs of sickness before permitted entrance into the Lan Xi Road School. As a public health measure in schools, nurses have been provided the authority to disallow any sick student from attending school that day. In what ways does this policy differ from the strategy intended for South African schools? Is one or the other more moral, are both acceptable, or rather are both measures unethical?