Pennsylvania School’s Denial of HIV-Positive Applicant Highlights Stigma Surrounding HIV/AIDS

The following is a statement from National Minority AIDS Council Deputy Executive Director Daniel C. Montoya:


Washington, DC — “As the global community came together to mark World AIDS Day yesterday, and President Obama honored the legacy of Ryan White in a speech at George Washington University, disturbing news reports surfaced surrounding a Pennsylvania boy who was denied admission to the Milton Hersey School simply because he is HIV-positive.  The case is made even more upsetting by the fact that the young man involved is only thirteen years old.  This incident provides a snapshot of the extent to which stigma and discrimination continue to affect the lives of those living with HIV and AIDS.


“In an attempt to justify its decision to deny admission to the young man, whose identity has understandably been withheld, the Hersey School claimed that it was attempting to protect the health and wellbeing of its other students.  Despite three decades of public education surrounding HIV and its methods of transmission, misinformation, fear and stigma continue to persist.  For the most part, HIV is transmitted by people who are unaware that they are infected.   What’s more, HIV cannot be transmitted through casual contact.


“Perhaps the most saddening aspect of this story is that the school, whose stated mission is to ‘nurture and educate children in social and financial need,’ not only turned away a deserving student, but also missed an opportunity to educate its student body on tolerance, respect and human dignity.  Instead of teaching its students how to make healthy choices, the administration showed them that being HIV-positive is something to be ashamed of and that it is acceptable to discriminate against those who may be different.


“While the courts will determine whether the Hersey School broke any laws by denying this young man admission, it is important that all Americans living with HIV are aware of their rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  The Department of Justice has made it a priority to aggressively pursue HIV-related discrimination cases, and anyone who feels that they have experienced such discrimination should contact the Civil Rights Division at”




Contact:  Kyle Murphy, (202) 483-6622 ext. 333