HIV and school children in Thailand

HIV and AIDS

by Rachel Stevens.

Siam-Care has over ten years of experience working in Thailand, supporting women and children in need. We have watched many of these children grow up and develop. We have also seen many changes as a result of the increase in HIV.

One in every 60 people is infected with HIV in Thailand. Education is a big concern for children with HIV. Some organisations encourage schools specifically for children with HIV. However, Siam-Care does not believe this is the answer. We much prefer integration of children with HIV into local schools, which is usually only possible by improving knowledge and awareness. Indeed, we encourage integration in all areas of our work with HIV and AIDS.

We have found that most teachers have a real sense of sympathy for children with HIV. However, the fear of possible infection takes over because teachers lack knowledge. On several occasions we have been asked to talk to schools where children with HIV were not allowed to attend because the teachers were afraid, especially when the child showed physical symptoms. The best way to tackle fear is by increasing knowledge and information.

Families also need support. If children go to school with infected wounds this indicates a lack of hygiene at home. Siam-Care works with families to educate them on treating the child’s physical symptoms correctly.

Siam-Care has been very active in providing teacher training on issues of sexual health in general and specifically on HIV and AIDS. In the past this has usually been for high school teachers. However children with HIV start their education in primary school.

A booklet called There’s a little dragon in Brenda’s blood has proved a welcome educational tool for both adults and younger children. The booklet, originally written in Dutch, has just been translated and re-printed in the Thai language. It helps children become aware of what it is like for a child to have AIDS. It raises some of the difficulties and issues they will encounter. The story is based on the true-life character of three-year-old Brenda who has a little dragon living in her blood, called HIV. This little dragon – which features on every page – although ever-present in Brenda’s body is usually asleep, just like the HIV virus is, and does not affect her daily life.

The book will be a useful resource for both teachers, children and parents through its easy-to-read style, colourful illustrations and helpful concluding chapter answering ‘frequently asked questions’. Siam-Care will be giving out copies of the Thai booklet to children’s wards in hospitals, primary school libraries and others working with children in health and social care in Thailand.

Siam-Care recently gave a copy to five year old Nong Erng, infected with HIV. A Siam-Care team member read the book whilst Nong Erng looked at the illustrations. Later, Nong Erng told Siam-Care staff she was taking her medication so that the dragon would remain asleep in her body!

Rachel Stevens wrote this article on behalf of Siam-Care. Their address is PO Box 86, Sutthisan Post Office, Bangkok 10321, Thailand. 

Copies of ‘There’s a little dragon in Brenda’s blood’ can be ordered from the Netherlands. Please ask for details of price from: Uitgeverij De Banier, Brigittenstraat 1, Postbus 2330, 3500 GH Utrecht, The Netherlands. Copies of the Thai translation can be ordered from Siam-Care for organisations in Thailand only and cost 70 Baht.