Should I Tell the School?
At some point it may become important to consider telling the school your child attends about HIV in your family. There are definitely advantages as well as disadvantages to sharing this information.
If your child does not have HIV, the school may still be able to help you when you are not feeling well. If the school knows this information, they will be able to support your child and be understanding when you are ill or in hospital. It may be that your child misses school, or doesn’t complete their homework because of how HIV is affecting your family, and this may worry them at times. A school that knows the reasons could be more supportive and understanding.
Schools can work with families to try and ensure that children don’t miss out on their education. Many schools have experience of supporting children whose parents have a long-term health condition and can be flexible to ensure that children don’t miss out.
If your child has HIV, the school will be able to support them if they have poor health, and give them any additional support they may need. Your child may benefit from having someone else outside their family who they can talk to when they need to. Teachers can be very important people in children’s lives.
If the school knows your child is living with HIV and is taking treatments, they will be able to manage this properly on school trips. This could mean your child can go on trips and holidays, whereas if the school doesn’t know, you may feel this is too difficult for your child to manage (see Travel and Sleepovers).
There are approximately 30,000 children living in a family where there is HIV in the UK. The more schools know about these children, where they are and what kind of support they need, the better educated they will become about HIV. This can have a very positive effect overall. Not only on the awareness in their school, but also by helping to build better understanding in the wider population.
There are a few examples of schools that have not reacted well when they have found out about HIV in a child’s family. Often this has been because the information has been gained from another source and not shared in a formal conversation with the parent.
It can be difficult to control how many people have information about HIV in your family. Telling a school can be worrying for parents who fear that the information will not be kept within the school and that parents and other people in their local community may find out.
It is important that you are very clear on your rights as a person living with HIV and for you to feel you have control over the information shared.