July 11, 2010 (KHARTOUM) — A primary school principal in Sudan’s twin capital of Omdurman have expelled one of their students who is infected with HIV according to a newspaper report.
The Akhir-Lahza newspaper quoted the Secretary General of ’LIGHT’ organization Masha’er Mohamed Badawi as saying that the unidentified private school initially agreed to admit the child despite being aware of his health status.
However, a few days later the administration pulled the student aside and asked him to leave saying they do not want to take his responsibility or have him among his peers at school suggesting that the unnamed child poses a risk to them.
Badawi described the school’s action as a violation of the child’s rights as stipulated in the laws and conventions.
The students has contracted the infection from his father who has passed away.
There was no reaction from the education ministry on the decision by the school towards the student.
The issue of HIV/AIDS is to a large extent considered a taboo in Sudan and many of those who are diagnosed with it avoid getting treatment and counseling for fear of being stigmatized and discriminated against.
The epidemic remains a touchy subject in the Middle East region’s conservative & Islamic societies, due to its correlation with unprotected premarital and extramarital sex, men having sex with men without condoms, or prostitution and intravenous drug use.
Many of those infected in Sudan have told local newspapers anonymously the rejection they had encountered from their own families and the near non-existent possibility of getting a job or making a living.
In one instance a mid-age woman told of her story with a doctor who after telling her that she was HIV+ said she has nothing left but to go home and die.
As of 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 320,000 people in Sudan are living with HIV with only 0.7% of those receiving Antiretroviral therapy (ART).
Last month a study by Laith Abu Raddad, director of the Biostatistics and Biomathematics Research Core at Weill Cornell Medical College in Qatar indicated that HIV prevalence varies greatly between North and South Sudan.
“In north Sudan, we used to think in the past that we have a much more serious problem of HIV but now the data set is more complete, it’s clear that north Sudan really is quite similar to the rest of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries. But in south Sudan we may have a generalized epidemic,” Abu Raddad said.
A generalized epidemic is one that has spread beyond high-risk minority populations to the general population.
Officials from the former rebel Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) have warned earlier this year that the post-conflict situation in the South is enabling its members to buy alcohol and sex.
"After peace was achieved, our soldiers began to receive regular payment, and with money comes the ability to buy alcohol, to buy sex," said Lt Col John Woja Elinana, head of the SPLA’s HIV secretariat. "With the increase in cross-border movement of people from high-prevalence countries like Uganda and Kenya, sex with women whose HIV status is not known is putting them [soldiers] at high risk.”
Many observers in Sudan have criticized the government saying it is not taking the issue of HIV prevention seriously. In 2006 a Sudanese lawmaker asked he health minister to apologize for proposing to distribute condoms to reduce HIV risks.
The then state minister of health Al-Fatih Saeed said that his ministry does hand out condoms but focuses on urging abstinence, preaching and following a moral conduct.