By Casey Quackenbush
February 11, 2019

A public elementary school in Indonesia expelled 14 HIV/AIDS-positive children following backlash from parents, the Jakarta Post reports.

Parents at the school in Surakarta, a major hub southeast of Jakarta, learned of the students’ HIV status at a parent-teacher conference in early January. In response, they allegedly threatened to pull their children from the school if the administration did not transfer or expel the HIV/AIDS-positive students.

“We had no choice,” said school principal Karwi. “We accepted the students because everyone has the right to education…until this wave of protests started to come in.”

Etty Retnowati of the Surakarta Education Agency said a new school has been located for the expelled students.

“The most important thing is they can continue their studies,” she said, according to the Post.

Puger Mulyono, founder of youth NGO Lentera Foundation, said he understood the parents’ concerns, and has faced similar problems in the past.“We’ll deal with this,” he said.

Such discrimination is not without precedent in Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim democracy. Rights groups have cited Indonesia’s recent crackdown on LGBT communities and the ensuing “moral panic” as contributing to the spread of HIV. Last October, fears of transmission prompted a school in North Sumatra to ban three HIV-positive orphans from an elementary school, according to Voice of America.

In 2016, Indonesia had 48,000 new HIV infections and 38,000 AIDS-related deaths, in addition to an estimated 660,000 people living with HIV, according to UNAIDS data. Since 2010, new HIV infections have decreased by 22% and AIDS-related deaths have increased by 68%.

Write to Casey Quackenbush at casey.quackenbush@time.com.

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