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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 5 March, 2003, 10:53 GMT
No school for India Aids victims
Two HIV-positive children in India are to be educated at home after facing a boycott in their school.

Bency, 7, and her brother Benson, 5, were admitted into a state-school in Kerala state only last week.

They had been rejected by several other schools because they were infected with the Aids virus.

But the parents of the other 119 students in the school kept their children at home because of fears that they would contract the virus.

Now the Kerala government has announced that Bency and Benson will be schooled at home at state expense.

Kerala Education Minister Nalakath Soopy announced the decision on Tuesday evening, following a chaotic meeting between the parent -teachers' association and government representatives at the school in Kollam district.

A large number of policemen had been deployed at the school as some 500 people, many of them parents, gathered to find out what was going to be the final outcome.

At the meeting a local legislator, Prathapa Varma Thampan of the ruling Congress party, launched a scathing attack on the grandfather of the siblings for sending them to the school.

Struggle

The two children at the centre of the controversy have had to virtually fight for their education.

Bency and Benson lost their parents to Aids and have been trying to join a school for the past two years.

Last month, the children and their grandfather Geevarghese John staged a day-long fast in front of Chief Minister Antony's office seeking his help.

Indian Aids drugs
HIV-Aids remain a source of much fear in India
Mr Antony finally intervened on their behalf and got them admitted into the state-run school at Kollam.

But now they cannot go back.

Undeterred by the controversy surrounding them, Bency and Benson are busy catching up with their studies by attending private classes.

'Fear and ignorance'

The BBC's Venkitesh Ramakrishnan in Trivandrum says the Aids Control Society in Kerala has been trying to counter mistaken fears of HIV-Aids, but with limited success.

MN Gunavardhan, a Society official, said ignorance of how the disease spread was driving the people of the area to extreme measures.

"We will have to undertake a massive awareness drive in the area," he said.

"But how much effect that will have remains to be seen."


SEE ALSO:
Grim global toll of Aids
26 Feb 03 |  Health
India Aids awareness urged
26 Nov 02 |  Health
Condom uproar in India assembly
21 Nov 02 |  South Asia
Q&A: Aids vaccine
08 Jul 02 |  Health


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