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Prosecutor Investigates Kazakh School For Kicking Out HIV-Positive Kids

SHYMKENT, Kazakhstan -- A local prosecutor's office has started investigating officials at a secondary school in Kazakhstan’s southern city of Shymkent because of the principal’s decision to expel two children after learning that they are HIV-positive.

Zhanneta Zhazyqbaeva, who chairs the Shymkent-based "Save Children from AIDS" foundation told RFE/RL that the two children were expelled last month after a local clinic, where the children were registered as HIV-positive, made a call to the school asking the nurse not to provide the children with TB vaccinations because of their infection.

"At the beginning of the year, the parents officially refused to vaccinate their children due to their medical condition," she said. "But regional health authorities called the school later to warn that there are two kids at school who are HIV-positive and therefore they cannot be vaccinated. The phone call seemingly shocked the school doctors, who informed the school director about the situation. The director then called the HIV-positive kids' parents to school and asked them to take their children out of school on the basis of their 'good will.'"

The children's mother, Indira Otzhanova, says she has filed a lawsuit against the school as her children were expelled as soon as the principal learned about their medical condition.

Nonetheless, Otzhanova added that she understands the principal, who most likely was afraid that parents would start withdrawing their children from his private school if they learned that two HIV-positive kids are among the pupils.

"The principal, as an intellectual, as a person who works in the education sector, broke the law by saying to us that we have to withdraw our children from school," she said. "On the other hand, as a human, I understand him as he owns his private business. I also understand that the population [of Kazakhstan] is not able to accept [HIV] yet. They are afraid that the HIV-positive children can pass the disease on to their children and to them."

Zhazyqbaeva told RFE/RL that the two children were among dozens of youngsters who became HIV-positive following a tainted blood transfusion in Shymkent six years ago. According to her, 220 children were infected in 2006.

"In the six years since the HIV-tainted blood transfusion scandal, four children graduated secondary school, two of them are university students and two are college students," she said. "The remaining 170 kids are currently secondary school students. In all, there are 220 of them [HIV-tainted blood transfusion victims]."
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