Schools can support HIV affected teachers & students

What is HIV & AIDS?
HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. AIDS refers to the late stage of HIV infection.

How can learners or teachers get HIV?
Through sexual contact with someone who is HIV+, sharing needles to inject drugs and mother to baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding. Avoid contact with HIV-positive blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids and breast milk.

HIV can live in a used needle for up to 42 days depending on the temperature and some other factors.

You can’t get HIV when you:
HIV does not survive long outside the human body and it cannot reproduce outside a human host. It is not spread by:

  • Air or water
  • Mosquitoes, ticks or other insects
  • Saliva, tears and sweat
  • Shaking hands, hugging, sharing toilets, sharing dishes/drinking glasses, closed-mouth or social kissing with someone who is HIV-positive
  • Food and drinks

HIV infection is not like a cold or flu. A child cannot get HIV by visiting the home of someone who has HIV or by holding another child’s hand. HIV is passed only through direct contact with another person's body fluids.

How do you detect HIV?
You have to go to your doctor to get tested and might have to do a follow up test 3 months after the initial test.

How does HIV affect education in SA?
HIV/AIDS can result in:

  • Students not completing their education.
  • A decline in school attendance when students become caregivers for their younger siblings when parents pass away.
  • Greater teacher turnaround and decreased number of teachers. 
  • A loss of teaching time can occur due to illness of teachers infected with HIV.
  • High financial cost of replacement of teachers through short and long term ventures if teachers infected with HIV are sick.  

How should HIV+ teachers and students be supported in class?
Schools can assist by ensuring that all teachers and students: 

  • Can apply for a position or enroll in their school without being discriminated against.
  • Have access to psycho-social support and counselling.
  • Have access to the nutritional, health and medical services that they need.

Teachers can assist by:

  • Modelling appropriate behaviour that discourage discrimination and prejudice against HIV-affected children. 

  • Not being fearful if there is a HIV-affected child in their classroom.

  • Respecting scholars’ and parents' right to privacy.
  • Reducing the stigma around HIV.

  • Consistently educating and monitoring peer group behaviour towards HIV-affected children.

  • Working with small groups, as certain skills, values and attitudes towards HIV/AIDS will be easier to transfer.

  • Planning to teach all learners, and sequence the units of information to accommodate HIV-affected children who may be absent frequently.

  • Rewarding efforts of HIV-affected children with barriers to learning. 

  • Working at a pace that includes all learners and collaborating with members of the family to obtain maximum support.

  • Providing accurate and scientific information about HIV/AIDS to scholars and teachers.
  • Teaching HIV-related life skills and basic first aid principles.

You might want to read some more about HIV positive kids in class.