Human rights activists in Tanzania are outraged over a move by some schools in the Kibaha district to require students stricken with the HIV virus to wear red ribbons on their school uniforms.
BBC reported that about seven schools northwest of Dar-es-Salaam are following the practice of identifying sickly students with the ribbons.
They are only doing that because they want to identify those who are HIV-positive, Jane Tibihita of Upendo Partnership, a local campaign group, told BBC.
However, the headmaster at one such school said the practice came from the parents of the HIV-infected pupils themselves in order to spare them from tasks -- like sweeping the grounds -- that may further endanger their fragile health.
Our school has pupils who are suffering from various diseases. The school and the society at large have decided to label pupils' uniforms, he told BBC.
In our school we put a red label on the pupils' collars to identify them.
Critics point out that the ribbons will only serve to stigmatize the children and that such measures are illegal.
Rebecca Mshumbusi, chairperson of the Kibaha Association of People Living with HIV/Aids, told BBC: The information of one's sickness is confidential unless if one decides to share it with others. There are laws that can punish those revealing other's health status.”
Tibihita added: Now, the HIV and Aids Prevention and Control Act allows one with concrete evidence to be taken to court on the grounds of stigmatization and one can be sentenced for up to three years.
HIV-AIDS is an extremely serious health issue in Tanzania.
UNAids stated that about 1.4-million people, or one-in-twenty Tanzanians, are carrying the deadly virus. Of that number, about 200,00 children (under the age of 15) are living with HIV/AIDS.
Almost 90,000 Tanzanians died from the disease in 2009.
Moreover, the practice of separating students by making them wear ribbons seems to hearken back to Nazi Germany which required Jews to wear a yellow Star of David and homosexuals to wear a pink triangle on their clothes.
Palash has worked as a business journalist for 21 years in New York.