Thursday, July 14, 2016

Stigma and Dropping out of Boarding School

Another participant in our first focus group described a traumatic experience when his classmates found out that he was HIV positive.  When his friends saw him taking his medication and asked what it was, he would tell them that it was for a headache.  One day, one of his friends had a headache and went into the participant’s belongings and took one of his medications.  Afterwards, his friend felt dizzy and reported it to the headmaster.   The headmaster assumed that he had taken illicit drugs and asked where he had gotten the medication.  Then, the headmaster took the bottle of medication from that participant’s belongings and held it up in front of the entire school, asking who it belonged to.  The participant didn’t speak up but many of his classmates knew that it was his and some identified it as medication for HIV.  Soon, the whole school knew and the participant was humiliated and depressed.  He refused to leave his bed or go to class for several days.  When he finally did, he discovered that he was being barred from entering the classroom by school security until he turned over the rest of his medication.  He tried explaining what the medication was for and that he needed it, but the headmaster refused to let him return to class until he gave him turned in his medication.  So, the participant went to the police station and told them and the situation, disclosing his HIV status to one particular police officer.  The police officer told him that he would come to his school soon.  Three days later, a different police officer showed up at school and took him back to the police station.  During this time, many people in the police office also became aware that the participant was HIV positive.  Eventually the headmaster came to understand the participant’s situation, however, due to this experience and the discrimination that the participant was faced at his boarding school he transferred soon after.  Ultimately, he dropped out of boarding school and no longer attends school due to the extreme stigma that he faced from having HIV.

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