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There is HIV discrimination in medical schools, secondary schools, and even grade schools. Related Gully Coverage

Gay Mundo
All gay coverage, all the time.

bolivar

Bolivar, "The Liberator," freeing South America.

Venezuelan HIV Activists Defeat Libertador University

by Ana Simo

SEPTEMBER 2, 2000. A Venezuelan court has ordered the national teachers college to stop requiring an HIV test for admission, as HIV/AIDS discrimination increases against those most susceptible to the silently growing epidemic, especially the very poor, or black, or gay.

Teaching Bigotry
The Universidad Pedagogica Experimental Libertador (UPEL)—a powerful, sprawling government-subsidized public university with eight main campuses and 20 other units throughout the country—argued that by refusing to train HIV-positive people as teachers it was just saving the Venezuelan nation money.

"This type of people," the University sniffed, "only live an average of five to eight years" after which "they inexorably die before they can leave behind any work worth remembering." Besides, it added, if they were admitted, "they would undoubtedly leave in their wake a trail of 'sidosos' at the university, the product of their sexual contamination." 'Sidosos' is gutter-level Spanish for PWA (Person with AIDS).

The court didn't buy any of this: it threw the book at the Libertador University for violating the Venezuelan constitution, among other things. The court was particularly incensed by the University's assertion that "there is no proof whatsoever that the University has violated any regional or international agreements."

Accion Ciudadana contra el SIDA (Citizens Action against AIDS), the independent group that successfully sued the Libertador University, had accused it of violating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the American Convention on Human Rights, and other major international instruments, in addition to Venezuelan laws.

The outrage of the court was understandable: last year the University completed a profitable two-year contract with the Venezuelan government to help it publicize human rights.

Ironically, the University is named after Simon Bolivar, el Libertador (the Liberator), Venezuela's (and much of Latin America's) enlightened nineteenth century independence hero.

Citizens Action coordinator Edgar Carrasco told The Gully that, increasingly, Venezuelan schools are requiring students to take HIV tests and are discriminating against those found to be HIV-positive. His group has received complaints about discrimination in medical schools, secondary schools, and even grade schools. Even the child-care center at the Ministry of Justice, and at the National Police department, require children to be tested, he said. Most of the complainants do not dare go public.

Carrasco hopes that the precedent-setting court ruling against the Libertador University will help turn the tide in Venezuela where, if you are HIV-positive, your chances of getting an education are fast dwindling.

Cops Target Minorities
Educational opportunities are not all you may lose in Venezuela if you are HIV-positive, and desperately poor, or black, or openly gay, or all of the above.

In a recent report Citizens Action charged the Venezuelan police with "using the HIV/AIDS epidemic as an excuse for perpetrating the most abhorrent violations of human rights." Cops were targeting "Afro-Venezuelans, homosexuals, sexual workers, indigents, and street children," who were often automatically "considered delinquents or dangers to society."

venezuela mapIn the last few weeks, Amnesty International has reported an alarming increase in police abuses against transgender people in Valencia, a large city near Caracas, the capital. The most serious was the July 29 execution-style killing of Dayana, a transgender woman who was still recovering at home from an earlier shooting by a state police officer. Amnesty has classified her murder as an "extrajudicial execution." On August 9, two of the murdered woman's young transgender friends were illegally detained, after cops forced them to undress in the street and beat them.

Venezuela does not keep accurate HIV/AIDS data. Between 1984 and 1999, less than 8,000 AIDS cases were reported by public hospitals. Half of them died. Sixty per cent were homosexual and bisexual men. The actual figure, however, is thought to be at least 20,000. Private doctors and hospitals are not required to report or keep records about HIV/AIDS, and routinely lie about the cause of death, often at the request of the family of the deceased.

While the number of AIDS cases is still modest for a country with a population of 23.5 million, Venezuela is an AIDS-epidemic time bomb.

AIDS Time Bomb
Anywhere between 150,000 and 400,000 people may be already HIV-infected. With 80% of the population living in poverty, a whooping 24% of 10 to 19 year-old kids who have never gone to school, a deep economic recession, no national HIV/AIDS prevention policy, and government efforts to cope still dysfunctional, fragmented, and under-funded, Venezuela offers all the conditions for a major AIDS catastrophe that could wipe out an entire generation in the very near future.

"Venezuela is like Dante Alighieri's Inferno," the newly elected President Hugo Chavez said last year, singling out the proliferation of children with AIDS as a particularly hellish development. Chavez has promised to end the Venezuelan Inferno, AIDS and all. Whether he will be able to even make a dent on it, particularly in the face of increasing U.S. distrust, is anyone's guess.

Related links:

For scrumptiously useful information go to the CIA Factbook, Venezuela.

For the Citizens Action Against SIDA (Spanish only).

For "liberating" resources go to the Bibioteca Simon Bolivar (English and Spanish).

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