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Stigma hinders the protection of the rights of children with HIV / AIDS

Communities should be encouraged to show solidarity with children with HIV / AIDS.

World AIDS Day on December 1 has been commemorated for 30 years, however, children suffering from HIV / AIDS in Indonesia have not yet received as much attention as adults who are infected with the virus.

Children with HIV / AIDS face discrimination and have been prevented from accessing their basic rights, such as education and housing, from an early age.

Jakarta and Surakarta have expelled children with HIV / AIDS from schools due to pressure from other parents.

This type of treatment is not limited to schools. In Surakarta, a shelter for children with HIV / AIDS administered by the Lentera Surakarta Foundation had to move several times in a year due to the rejection of the local community.

Our research conducted in 2016 in Jakarta and Surakarta shows that stigma and discrimination are two main factors that prevent children with HIV / AIDS from receiving their basic rights.

The central and local governments of Indonesia have enacted a series of regulations to ensure that these rights are fulfilled. But the implementation has failed.

Meanwhile, the number of people with HIV / AIDS, including children, has been increasing. Since December 2016, the Indonesian Ministry of Health has counted more than 5,000 Indonesian citizens between the ages of 0 and 19 who suffer from HIV / AIDS.

Support for children living with HIV / AIDS

There are a number of community organizations in Indonesia that specifically advocate for children living with HIV / AIDS.

Lentera Anak Pelangi has accompanied 96 children in Jakarta. This institution provides health and psychosocial support, case management, as well as advocacy. They believe that the best place for children to grow up is with their families, so that they can live and be cared for in a community of caregivers.

In Central Java, the Lentora Surakarta Foundation, founded by Puger Mulyono, has a shelter to accommodate a dozen children. The children of this house are not only from Solo, but also from other districts, such as Batam and even Papua.

Following the villagers' refusal to live among HIV / AIDS children who were staying at the Lentera Surakarta shelter, the Surakarta administration is building a new shelter house in one part of the city.

This shelter is expected to provide children with HIV / AIDS with a permanent space that meets their health requirements. This shelter is home to children with HIV / AIDS who were rejected by their families.

In addition to managing shelters, Lentera Surakarta also deals with 101 children with HIV / AIDS who live with their family in Central Java and East Java.

Commitments and challenges of the duty bearers

The government has demonstrated its commitment to fulfill the rights of children with HIV / AIDS by issuing regulations that impact on various sectors.

Beyond regulations on HIV / AIDS, the protection of the rights of children with HIV / AIDS has also been strengthened through the Health Law (Article 137), Social Security, Child Protection Law (Article 2 and Article 67C), Education System Law (Article 4, 5, 6, Dan 12), Social Welfare Law and a ministerial decree of 2010 on the Guidelines for the Social Welfare of Children.

The government is also working on a National HIV / AIDS Prevention Strategy in the education sector. The draft is currently being reviewed by government institutions, such as the Ministry of Education and Culture, the National AIDS Commission and other institutions.

Unfortunately, the government's commitment has not translated into the implementation of policies. There are still some classic problems in terms of coordination between different institutions and budget allocation. In addition, not all sectors of government work in sync to protect the basic rights of children with HIV / AIDS.

It is informative to know that when the government takes firm action against perpetrators of discrimination against children with HIV / AIDS, such as replacing principals and warning perpetrators of acts of discrimination in the case of public schools in East Jakarta, this year, does not necessarily bring positive changes to the child's life.

The child who was involved in the case still could not access formal education after his expulsion. In other words, the application of the law could discourage discriminatory practices, but it does not guarantee the fulfillment of the rights of the child.

Stigma in the community

This shows that there are structural problems in protecting children with HIV / AIDS in the form of stigma. The government and civil society recognize that the stigma against children with HIV / AIDS creates an obstacle to protect their rights effectively.

In general, people understand that HIV / AIDS is an infectious disease. However, this knowledge has not been followed by the understanding that the transmission of HIV / AIDS is not so simple compared to the transmission of another infectious disease such as tuberculosis.

In addition, people do not understand how to live as collateral children with HIV / AIDS. People still associate children with HIV / AIDS with the actions of their parents that they consider negative.

Encourage the role of communities

There should be efforts to ensure that all elements of society, not just the government, support the protection of the rights of children with HIV / AIDS. Although it is undeniable that the government still needs to improve managerial and budgetary allocation capacities.

The government must provide complete and accurate information on HIV / AIDS to reduce and ultimately eliminate the stigma surrounding HIV / AIDS. Communities should be involved as much as possible.

Communities must be involved to ensure that children with HIV / AIDS receive their basic rights. They should be encouraged to show solidarity with children with HIV / AIDS.

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