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Campaigner condemns sacking of West Coast childcare worker with HIV as 'discrimination' - 'What they didn’t do was look into the facts'

A HIV campaigner has condemned the decision of a West Coast early childcare centre to sack a HIV-positive employee as an act of "discrimination" which is indefensible given she posed no threat to the children in her care.

Positive Women national coordinator Jane Bruning says concern over the safety of a HIV positive child care worker was unfounded and based on stigma. Source: Breakfast

Positive Women national coordinator Jane Bruning said the decision of Learning Adventures child care centre in Cobden to sack Gayle Jonker as manager, was based off ignorance and a lack of education to the risk HIV-positive people pose in the workplace.

"You cannot get it from any casual contact, not in a working environment like what Gayle would be doing, or any working environment," Ms Bruning said.

Ms Bruning said the centre's justification for publicising Ms Jonker's HIV-status to parents was - to dispel fears over a potential danger to their children - was unfounded.

"What they didn't do is look into the facts," she said.

"I contracted HIV when my son was four-years-old, and he's now 34. I have looked after him, I have wiped his cuts and scrapes, I have licked his ice-cream when it was dribbling and kissed him.

"We've shared the same drinks. He's 34 and he's not got HIV. Gayle would never be that close contact with those children anyway and, even if it wasn't an undetectable viral load, she just would not pass it on to the children."

Ms Bruning reiterated the main transmission of HIV is through sexual contact or intravenous drug use, or vertical transmission from mother to child, adding it was "not actually that easy to contract".

Evolve Education, which is the parent company of the centre, told Ms Jonker, who contracted HIV in 2011, staff would need to visit parents to inform them of her status.

The centre also posted her diagnosis on social media, Ms Jonker said, and they asked if they could disclose her diagnosis in their enrollment pack.

Ms Jonker said she was then let go on day 88 of her 90-day trial, despite having had no serious employment problems raised with her in the past.

Positive Women's Jane Bruning says the reason for this sort of "descrimintation" was "a lack of education" about the virus in New Zealand.

"We're a low prevalence country and as a result of that there's not a lot of education around it because I don't think people think it's relevant," Ms Bruning said.

"And what happens with that lack of education is a response like what's happened in Greymouth. People think it's still like in the 80s and still behave like they're in the 80s."

Ms Bruning assured that with the developments in medication for HIV, the disease is now a "crhonic, manageable illness" for which it is possible to live a "long, natural life, and not transmit to somebody else".