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Schools To Get Further Guidance For HIV Students

MEDIA RELEASE 14 MAY 1999

Hon Wyatt Creech Minister of Health
Hon Nick Smith Minister of Education

SCHOOLS TO GET FURTHER GUIDANCE FOR STUDENTS WITH HIV

Schools will receive further guidelines by the end of the month to help them respond to children who have HIV, Health Minister Wyatt Creech and Education Minister Nick Smith said today.

"It is very easy for this sort of issue to cause an overreaction in schools at the expense of the few HIV positive children. The risks of transferring the HIV virus through contacts at schools are extremely low. There have been no cases where the virus has been spread through biting.

"But the case of a young Auckland boy is a timely reminder of the need to ensure schools have up to date advice and guidance on how to respond when a child who has HIV enrols.

"The issue requires a careful balancing of the obligation to provide a safe physical and emotional environment while respecting the right of every child to a public education. Schools should always take a responsible approach.

"The Ministries of Health and Education will help in this regard by producing advice to schools and teachers, including guidance on supporting any child or family and ensuring schools take universal precautions and treat any blood as infected blood.

"Parents have a big role to play as well to ensure schools have all the information they need about a child when the child is enrolled," the Ministers said.

The Ministers said about 100 people a year were found to be positive with HIV and a very small proportion of these were likely to be in schools.

"Our advice is that there are other diseases in our community which are far greater risk to school children like Meningoccal Disease which can be spread by droplets from coughing, sneezing or sharing food or drink with an infected person.

"HIV in contrast is acquired through sexual contact with an infected person, receipt of infected blood or blood products and transmission of the virus from mother to foetus. It is not spread through casual contact in the school playground."

Information currently available to schools includes advice from the New Zealand Paediatric Society, the AIDS Foundation and earlier advice from the Ministry of Education. The new guidelines will update and consolidate the information for schools.

ENDS

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