Chinese school faces backlash for isolating its HIV-positive students

Guo Xiaoping, the head of Linfen Red Ribbon School in Shanxi province, plays with his students.
PHOTO: China Daily/Asia News Network

On Wednesday, millions sat for China's notoriously grueling two-day college entrance exam, known as the gaokao.

While everyone files into testing facilities for the exam, 16 kids in northern China's Shanxi province will sit the test in isolation - because they're HIV-positive.

The students go to the Linfen Red Ribbon School, the only institution of its kind in China.

Linfen was set up over a decade ago specifically to provide education to HIV-positive kids.

The school has always maintained that it serves as a safe-haven for the HIV-positive community, away from society's discrimination and rejection - often even from even their families.

Most of the school's 33 students got HIV from their mothers during birth.

Due to lack of mainstream understanding of the virus, many villages call for the banishment of these children to separate communes, for fear of transmission.

For the big gaokao, Linfen had to obtain special permission to let them do the exam on the school premises.

Other students would have filed into large, designated centres set up for the exam.

Linfen's headmaster, Guo Xiaoping, told China News: "The local education department would allow these students to take the test with other children, but parents of other children might object to that."

Guo also told Sixth Tone the school has even gone to the lengths of arranging for its students to have the name of another school on their graduation documents, in the hopes of helping them escape discrimination when they graduate.

A call for better HIV and AIDS awareness

After media coverage of the isolated exam for Linfen broke, debate on its methods has erupted on Chinese social media, where some are calling for better awareness of HIV and AIDS in the country.

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