The vexed issue of HIV in China came to the fore once more when it was reported that a group of children who are HIV positive took their gaokao exam in a separate venue.
The gaokao, properly the National Higher Education Entrance Examination, is the annual test which determines university entrance, and took place last week. As the number taking the exam increases, but the provision of higher education in China fails to keep pace, the gaokao has become increasingly competitive, and feelings about it always run high.
Now those feelings have tangled with the emotive issue of HIV. The children in question are students at the Red Ribbon School in Linfen, Shanxi Province. The school was established by Guo Xiaoping, formerly President of the local hospital, so that HIV+ children could study without suffering discrimination and ostracization. However his idea that they should sit the exam on the school premises has provoked controversy on social media, according to What’s On Weibo.
Opinion is divided between those who think the decision encourages discrimination, and those who unashamedly express their preference to be kept away from people with HIV. What’s On Weibo reports that the most “liked” comment was that of a mother who wrote:
“Would you feel safe knowing your kid is playing with those HIV-positive children? They are so little and don’t know how to protect themselves. Something might happen that leads to contact with blood.”
However the gaokao is only the first barrier in the way of HIV+ students hoping to attend university. One Red Ribbon School student wrote, movingly, in an open letter:
“So many questions have been troubling me: whether I will be accepted to a university, if the teachers will accept me as a normal student, and whether my classmates will study and live with me.”