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School Rejecting HIV+ Teen Leads to Hershey Boycott

School Rejecting HIV+ Teen Leads to Hershey Boycott

 

A boycott of confectionery giant Hershey is being called for after a teenage boy living with HIV/AIDS was excluded from a school which is connected to the company.

Milton Hershey School have explained their decision on the basis that the 14-year-old boy could potentially infect one of his classmates through unprotected sex. The school is financed by the Milton Hershey School Trust.

The case is reminiscent of the 1985 battle around teen Ryan White, who was excluded from schools in Indiana after protests from parents, which included violent threats such as the White’s house being fired on. White died in 1990 and his pallbearers included Elton John and Phil Donahue. His grave was subsequently vandalized.

However, in this case, the school is not citing parental concerns. In a statement on its website, the school cited the risk of sexual contact.

“We systematically encourage abstinence, and we educate our children on sexual health issues,” the statement says. But “our teenagers are the same as teens all across the country. Despite our best efforts, some of our students will engage in sexual activity with one another. Given our residential setting, when they do, they will be doing so on our watch.”

Ryan White’s mother said:

“[It is] 22 years since my son Ryan passed away after his truly courageous battle with AIDS – and our family’s battle with the discrimination, fear-mongering and misinformation it fostered in Indiana and across America back in the earliest days of the epidemic. The news that in this day and age, the Milton Hershey School rejected an otherwise qualified … boy due to his HIV-positive status brings back horrible memories of what Ryan had to go through 27 years ago when all he wanted to do was simply to go back to school.”

“Hershey – both the school and the chocolate company – should apologize and denounce its rejection of the boy as unfounded and discriminatory and really step up to the plate to educate both their staffs and the public-at-large about the realities of HIV/AIDS.”

The boy told Poz magazine:

I would really like for this school to learn a lesson, a big lesson. But it doesn’t really seem as though anything is going to happen to them for what they did.

I know other kids who are HIV positive, and when they tell who they think are his/her so-called friends, what ends up happening is they get teased or ostracized by their peers out of ignorance. I didn’t think I would have to go through that there, with the house parents or medical staff at Hershey. My mother even went as far as to find a specialist in Hershey who would be able to care for me while I was in their care. I am at a point that I try to block this out—but it’s kind of hard.

The school is being sued by The AIDS Law Project of Pennsylvania for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Now the AIDS Healthcare Foundation is calling for a Hershey boycott until the school’s decision is reversed and has staged protests in San Francisco, outside the Hershey Company’s flagship store on Times Square and in Hershey, where both the company headquarters and the school are based.

International protests have begun with one in New Delhi on April 5.

“The multinational candy maker, instead of sweetening the young lives across the world, has chosen to make the life of a kid extremely bitter by denying admission in their school. We strongly condemn the blatant discrimination by the company and urge all Indians to boycott their products,” Dr Shibu Cheruvelil, AIDS Healthcare Foundation India Country Programme Manager, told the rally.

Find out more about the boycott Hershey campaign at endhivstigma.org

Take Action! Sign the petition against this discriminatory policy.

 

Related stories:

HIV Treatment as Prevention: The 2011 Breakthrough of the Year

7,500 Americans Can’t Get AIDS Meds (Video)

The ‘Broken Promises’ by Rich Countries on HIV/AIDS (Video)

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San Francisco protest photo by Steve Rhodes

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38 comments

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11:58PM PDT on May 14, 2012

Why do most of the comments about this article rush to the judgement that this school is Christian and speaks for the majority of Christians. A quick glance at their website (mhs-pa.org) makes it clear that the school is not associated with religion. Please stop assuming that all Christians are such prejudiced people. There are plenty of us who do not behave so. Just because certain Christians have perpetuated prejudice under the name of "the Christian right" does not mean all Christians support that behavior or attitude.

10:51PM PDT on Apr 21, 2012

This is a 14 year old. A child. One of our most precious. I think that we need to ensure that there is more education to teach people that you can't catch AIDS holding hands.

And, if it's a Christian thing, what would Jesus do? Find a cure. Especially since I highly doubt if this kid did anything to deserve the health status he's in.

1:47AM PDT on Apr 19, 2012

We can thank the christian family-values hate mongering folks for continuing to promote such prejudicial and hurtful attitudes. The school administrator who made the decision must think the boy would purposely expose a sex partner to HIV, yet people living with HIV are very cautious and considerate to be careful - much more than non-HIV students and the teen pregnancies.

8:07PM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

This information should have been confidiential. There is no reason that anyone except the school nurse or medical officer should have needed to know.

4:23AM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

2012 and we still take a leap backwards?

3:32AM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

This "Abstinence" program doesn't seem to be working out for Hershey School. Maybe they ought to try a different teaching tool. How ignorant of the folks at Hershey to make this decision. It makes me wonder exactly what the quality of the students Hershey turns out is. Maybe they are striving to produce the most ignorant, bigoted, "Christians" they can create and unleash on an unsuspecting public. How un-Christ-like can Hershey get. Didn't Christ teach something about having compassion, forgiveness, charity in the heart. I guess the folks haven't gotten as far as The Sermon on the Mount in that Bible they probably tote with them all over the place. Live a Christ-like life and you will see the error of your ways and enrich the world instead of pollute it.

2:40AM PDT on Apr 12, 2012

Considering that Hershey's uses slave labor chocolate and mistreated its "foreign exchange interns" by forcing them to work long warehouse shifts in unairconditioned warehouses instead of the business internships they were promised--and on top of that, shorted them on their pay!--I wasn't eating Hershey anyway.

8:36PM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

Because no one in the 21st century knows you can get diseases by unprotected sex? What stupidity is this? Giving up Hershey's terrible chocolate won't be a wrench.

5:05PM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

Damn what is this the 1980? The kid knows he is infected and the students most likely know too. Its a safe bet to say he won't go sleeping around with other teenagers in the school. They need to be sued for discrimination such as this

4:52PM PDT on Apr 11, 2012

#1, if this company, Hershey and the school had an ounce of compassion, then they should let him come back with open arms...just as their savior Jesus Christ would. That would be the "Christian" thing to do!

#2, didn't Christ Jesus hang around and heal the lepers? If so, wouldn't the so-called pure Christians be protected from any such disease...and if they are the good Christians they say they are, they shouldn't be having sex with a 14 year old boy anyhow!

If people follow the necessary steps and don't go crazy with worry, I doubt if the situation would arise where another individual would want to touch a "cut" if that did happen. The school nurse if educated on how to deal with HIV persons would address that issue.

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Lindsay Spangler Lindsay Spangler is a Web Editor and Producer for Care2 Causes. A recent UCLA graduate, she lives in... more
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