|AIDS is a relatively new and significant health hazard: it has attracted widespread publicity and much ill-formed speculation which has caused considerable alarm. Specific questions have been asked about possible risks within schools. This booklet incorporates information produced by the UK Department of Education and Science and the UK Advisory Committee on Dangerous Pathogens; the National Advisory Committee on AIDS is compiling a booklet on AIDS which will soon be available locally. This booklet provides details on the nature of the virus and sets out practical advice on how teachers can use their knowledge of health and safety to minimise risk of the transmission of the virus within the school community, and at the same time avoid unnecessary or inappropriate procedures.
The purpose of this document is to seek to reassure teachers as to the possible risk of being infected by contact with members of the school community who may be carriers of the HIV virus.
The UK Department of Education and Science booklet "Children at School and AIDS" is available for reference. Every teacher should have access to this booklet, which contains a great deal of useful information. Please contact the BSTU if a copy is not available within your school. The BSTU is attempting to build up resource material for its members.
The BSTU has set up a Sub-Committee to advise on all matters relating to AIDS and the Sub-Committee, in conducting its investigations, was able to obtain information from several sources. The Union acknowledges with gratitudethe assistance given by the National Education Association of the USA, the Canadian Teachers Federation adn the National Union of Teachers in Great Britain. Parts of this document have been copied directly from the material made available to the BSTU.
The BSTU should also like to record and acknowledge the assistance given to it by members of the Medical profession here in Barbados.
The BSTU is aware that research into the extent of the spread of AIDS in the Caribbean is being conducted by the Caribbean Epidemiology Centre in Trinidad. The BSTU is also aware of the work being undertaken in Barbados by the National Advisory Committee on AIDS. The BSTU has been able to offer its comments on the draft position paper prepared by that body.
|AIDS is a condition caused by a virus called the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) which used to be known as the Lymphadenopathy Associated Virus/Human T Cell Lymphotrophic Virus Type III (LAV/HTLV III).
Normally, when a virus enters the blood, certain white blood cells known as T4 Helper Lymphocytes attack and kill the virus. When HIV enters the blood, it can infect and destroy some of these white blood cells. As a result, people infected with the virus are more likely to develop illnesses which the body would normally be able to combat. These illnesses can become serious and may be fatal. The development of clinical AIDS can lead to serious infections in the lungs, digestive system, central nervous system and in the skin. Particular forms of cancer may also develop. At present, there is no known cure for AIDS, although many of the less severe illnesses can be treated.
Infection with HIV does not necessarily lead to the development of clinical AIDS. Most infected people show no symptoms and remain fit and well, at least in the short term, and can therefore be identified only by a test for the presence of virus antibodies in their blood. Latest implications suggest that many carriers of the HIV virus may eventually develop the full disease. IT IS IMPORTANT TO EMPHASISE THAT ALTHOUGH THE MAJORITY OF THOSE INFECTED WITH THE HIV SHOW NO SYMPTOMS, THEY MUST BE REGARDED AS CARRIERS OF THE VIRUS AND MAY THEREFORE BE ABLE TO TRANSMIT IT TO OTHERS.
|Transmission of the Virus
None of the identified cases of HIV infection in the United States or in the UK are known to have been transmitted in the school setting, or through other casual personal contact.
HIV is a fragile virus which is easily destroyed and much less infectious than, for example, the Hepatitis B virus. It is difficult to pass from person to person and can only happen in certain circumstances, i.e.
Although the virus has been isolated in many body fluids, cases of transmission have been recorded only from blood, semen and, possibly, breast milk. There is no evidence to suggest that the virus is transmissible through saliva or tears. Infection is not spread through the air (for example by coughing, sneezing or spittle). Nor is there evidence of danger from handling objects which has been used by an infected person, from sharing toilets, or sharing eating and drinking utensils. None of the family members of the 12,000 AIDS patients reported to the Centre for Disease Control in the USA have been reported to be infected with the HIV virus except those who are in sexual or perinatal contact with the patients.
|Children and AIDS
|The number of HIV carrier children in schools in Barbados is at present unknown. However, some children born of infected mothers may enter the school system, and it is likely that significant numbers of students may become infected with HIV through sexual contact, even if they remain asymptomatic, while still at school.
CURRENT EVIDENCE INDICATES THAT CHILDREN IDENTIFIED AS HIV CARRIERS DO NOT PRESENT A RISK TO OTHER CHILDREN OR ADULTS IN THE ORDINARY SCHOOL ENVIRONMENT. THE BSTU EXECUTIVE THEREFORE FULLY SUPPORTS THE VIEW THAT CHILDREN IDENTIFIED AS BEING INFECTED SHOULD BE ALLOWED TO ATTEND SCHOOL FREELY AND BE TREATED IN THE SAME WAY AS OTHER PUPILS.
The BSTU executive also supports the view that new practices should be adopted in relation to those school subjects or activities where risks may occur (e.g. an HIV carrier giving blood for science lessons). Certain children's social practices which should be discouraged to prevent the spread of infection include tattooing and ear-piercing. The risk of AIDS presented by these practices is believed at present to be small, but there are a number of other health reasons why discouraging such practices is a sensible precaution.
|The present level of understanding about the nature of AIDS, and the risks associated with children identified as HIV carriers, has created excessive alarm. Strict confidentiality is essential to protect HIV carriers from being victimised, isolated or discriminated against as a result of unfounded fears about infection. The BSTU believes that the Hygiene Control Guidelines, as specified below, should be put into operation in all circumstances, and not just where a child is identified or suspected as being an HIV carrier. All schools should have on-site facilities to cope with these procedures and have adequate first-aid supplies to administer properly the hygiene measures (which also prevent the spread of other infectious diseases such as hepatitis or dysentry).
If any school is not so equipped, the matter should be reported forthwith to the BSTU staff representative at the school. This report and the action taken by the BSTU staff representative should then be relayed without delay to the BSTU.
If, for any reason, a child is identified as an HIV carrier, any information concerning that child must be discreetly managed in order not to emphasise the situation.
Any decision as to the extent of any disclosure within a school will require careful consideration in each case, with the benefit of medical advice, on the discharge of a school's responsibilities for proper care of the child.
|GIVEN THE CIRCUMSTANCES BY WHICH THE VIRUS IS TRANSMITTED, AND SO LONG AS THE PROPER HYGIENE CONTROL GUIDELINES ARE ALLOWED, THEN THE FEAR OF BECOMING INFECTED THROUGH SOCIAL OR WORK CONTACT BETWEEN TEACHERS AND PUPILS IS CLEARLY NOT JUSTIFIED.
We should also hope that the information contained in this booklet will provide reassurance in situations where members of the school community are identified as HIV virus carriers.
|Hygiene Control Guidelines
|All schools must have readily available for the use of all members of staff the following items:
The following is the basic hygiene procedure recommended by the BSTU. This procedure should be put into operation in all instances to provide protection against a range of infections to which teachers in schools may be exposed.
POLICY STATEMENT ON AIDS BY THE BSTU EXECUTIVE
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is caused by a virus which attacks the immune system. In the fully developed stage of the disease, the body's immune system is totally destroyed, thereby allowing diseases which do not normally cause illness to invade the body. It is these diseases, called opportunistic infections, which kill the individual with AIDS. The virus known as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) cannot be detected by a simple test at this time. At the moment, the only test available is the antibody test, which is evidence of infection from the virus.
Unfortunately, a significant number of people with HIV infection go on to develop the disease which is known as clinical AIDS and which is a fatal disease as there is no cure at present.
It should be noted that a person who is infected with the virus may not develop any symptoms for some time. However, any infected person may transmit the virus:
© The Barbados Secondary Teachers' Union 2009
All Rights Reserved.