Create a safe and learning environment for children living with and affected by HIV, said Peter Borges, Chief Executive Officer of Human Touch Foundation while speaking at a panel discussion in Cali, Colombia. “They are frequent targets of bullying and harassment. Not only does this potentially violate child rights, but it also results in more truancy for these learners. If students are missing classes, they’re not receiving the education they need and deserve. There is a need to implement policies that specifically mention protections for children living with HIV and create a safe environment for all,” he said.
Peter was speaking at the panel discussion at a parallel session at the International Forum on Inclusion and Equity in Education on 13th September in Cali (Colombia). The session was on the topic “A learning environment that welcomes every learner” which discussed how to make learning environments welcoming and accessible for every learner, whatever their health status.
The international forum was held to build a common understanding and a renewed commitment towards reinforcing inclusion in education among education policymakers, education practitioners, civil society organisations, NGOs, UN agencies, development partners and the private sector.
He further stressed on the need to keep girls in school and address gendered inequalities that make young girls particularly vulnerable to HIV infection. By empowering girls with knowledge, skills, and resources to protect themselves from HIV, the structural inequalities that heighten the vulnerability of girls and young women can be addressed, he further said.
Human Touch Foundation addresses the issue of exclusion of children living with HIV from educational institutions because of discriminatory attitudes of educators and parents by visiting schools and communities to raise awareness, change attitudes, provide legal advice in cases where children’s rights are denied. Training is also provided to heads of educational institutions in reducing fear about HIV and AIDS and tackling stigma and discrimination.