Wed Oct 26 07:57:14 CAT 2016

'A pupil will take poison after testing positive for HIV; they think it's the end of the world'

By unknown | Nov 23, 2006 | COMMENTS [ 0 ]

Vuyolwethu Sangotsha

Some HIV-positive pupils who battle to accept their status are resorting to suicide.

The warning yesterday that some pupils who were unable to cope with the fact that they were infected with the virus was made by the Eastern Cape provincial Education Department.

According to the department's yearly pupil mortality survey, 157 pupils committed suicide in the province last year.

Mike Msebi, provincial education spokesman, did not know exactly how many of those pupils had done so because they were HIV-positive.

He said that there were, however, a number of known cases where pupils had killed themselves because they were HIV-positive.

"For instance, a student will take poison because he or she loses hope after testing positive.

"They think it's the end of the world," he said.

He urged those who were HIV-positive to understand that to be infected with the HI virus was not the end of life.

He said the department's HIV-Aids directorate was running an outreach programme to educate pupils about the virus.

They are advised to abstain or use condoms, and the importance of antiretrovirals for those living with the virus is stressed.

The number of pupils who died in the province last year is 2917.

The deaths were because of accidents, illnesses and violent incidents, including suicides.

The statistics linked 725 of the fatalities to accidents, 1909 to illnesses and 283 to violence.

Msebi cited testing positive for HIV, child abuse, rape, and parents' separation as some of the contributing factors to the suicides.

An East London psychologist, Christopher Harper, said those who portray HIV as a death sentence and the end of the world were indirectly responsible for these deaths.

He said young people have reached a point of desperation where they can't see any way out after testing positive.

"We are living in a judgmental world and this puts more pressure on our youth.

"We tend to look down on people instead of building them up," he said.

"For instance, if a young girl is raped we will blame her for being raped and she doesn't get enough support. By so doing we create a scary environment."

Harper stressed the importance of giving young people a platform to express their concerns and having effective methods to deal with these concerns.

Msebi also urged students writing their final examinations of the year to accept the exam results. He pleaded with them not to commit suicide if they failed to advance to the next level of their education.

He said the education MEC, Mkhangeli Matomela, had appointed a community liaison officer to link the department with communities because many of the pupils' problems emanate from where theylive.

"This will help to identify and overcome their problems," he said.

Msebi said parents and the community would be mobilised to become more involved in giving moral support to the pupils.


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