Thursday, March 01, 2012

Shame on us

I was recently reminded of something we Australians should be very ashamed of, more specifically some residents of the New South Wales town of Kincumber near Gosford.

Run out of town is probably an American expression, but it best describes what happened to the van Grafhorst family when they tried to enrol their daughter in pre school. Their daughter, Eve, contacted HIV as a baby from a blood transfusion. I won't say all, but parents at the pre school insisted Eve wear a plastic face mask and for some even that wasn't enough and threatened to withdraw their own children from the pre school.

The van Grafhorsts moved to Hastings in New Zealand where they were treated well by the local community and shock, horror, no one contracted HIV from Eve.

Eve died in 1993 at the age of eleven. Her mother subsequently received a comforting letter from Princess Diana.

So much for the tolerant and embracing Australia that that is said to look after mates when they are in trouble. Take a bow New Zealand.


  1. It was shameful, but there was a lot of fear behind it and that intensified when it became known that Eve had bitten or tried to bite another child. Even without the HIV, biting other children is unacceptable and I'm of the belief that a biting child should be excluded if they can't learn NOT to bite. Harsh, yes, but the safety of the many outweighs the hurt feelings of the one. Then again, if Eve wasn't HIV positive, maybe the biting would have been overlooked.

  2. Ignorance is alive and well in Kincumber, a face mask indeed who do these people think she is Hannibal Lector :-).

  3. River, I didn't know about the biting and it was early days in HIV when less was known but it was known even then that mosquitoes could not transfer the infection and that the volume in saliva was almost undetectable. Ignorance perhaps, but still wrong.

    Windsmoke, kids perhaps cope with such things but I'd reckon the parents were pretty upset.

  4. biting is a standard kindy activity I assure you. I have been left in charge of 20 pre schoolers and it was an ugly affair. Barwon prison is calmer.
    Agree totally that 'run em outta town' is shameful, so very NSW.
    My dear departed HIV+ friend slobbered on me a lot in the 80's and I am still here and with gorgeous blood. Every day we risk death and should not be picky about the means.
    Bless dear little frightened Eve - I clearly remember the photos of her at the time, and a nod to Hastings NZ for sense.

  5. Pre Dickensian attitude.

    Thought that, since we came down form the trees (or emerged from the premordial slime) that we were supposed to be better than that.

    No accounting for cretins, I guess.

  6. Melbourne MOD; kindy biting is normal?? My younger three kids each went to kindy when they were four and there was no biting, from them or from any other kids there.

  7. Mod, what would you do now if someone wanted to slobber on you?

    I dunno LS. It was very early times in HIV history. While you might have done it smarter, what would think about your granddaughter mixing it back then.

    River, I remember some biting incidents when I was a kid. And some pinching ones too.

  8. I remember her and the terrible treatment all too well. I hope that the boneheads in Kincumber learned something from it...

  9. Kath, I reckon in some towns, that could even happen now.

  10. That story was huge in health and welfare circles in the mid 1980s. Everybody seemed to be horrified that the family was handled so badly, yet it seemed that the pre-school system was given no guidelines for handling the little girl. Or was it a private pre-school and perhaps not subject to legislation? I have forgotten.

  11. I'd hope that our attitudes have come a long way since then :(

    I got bitten on the face by another kid, pretty sure it was when I was in kinder or a little younger!

  12. Hels, it was something the NSW health dept should have gotten onto quickly and smoothed the waters. It was bad for the family and bad for the lass.

    Fen, never thought about now. What if a child in day care or kinder now had HIV? The outcome would be better, but perhaps not perfect. At least the science is there now. I expect you deserved to get bitten.

  13. We thought that was dreadful at the time. Still is. Poor little love...

  14. Bliss, it could have been only one person who whipped up a storm. Indeed poor lass.


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