Advocates protest at Hershey Co. over school turning away HIV-positive student

    An international advocacy group is joining the fray in the case of a Delaware County boy denied admission to a boarding school because he is HIV positive.

    The Los Angeles-based AIDS Healthcare Foundation staged a protest outside of Hershey Company headquarters Tuesday.

    The group’s home-page is plastered with the phrase “No Kisses for Hershey,” and calls on the three people who sit on the boards of both the Hershey Company and Milton Hershey School to get the admission decision reversed.

    “We thought this was behind us,” said Michael Weinstein, president of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “For a brand of the stature of Hershey to get behind this type of discrimination is something that is very sad indeed.”

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    Weinstein said he fears a dangerous precedent if the school’s decision is allowed to stand. His group has pledged up to $50,000 to help a local law firm sue the school on behalf of the 13-year-old boy who was denied admission.

    Kevin Burns, executive director of ActionAIDS in Philadelphia, said he hopes it becomes a national test case.

    “This could take us to the next level of really helping to break down more of that stigma and more of those barriers that people experience,” Burns said.

    Milton Hershey spokeswoman Connie McNamara said the school is looking forward to the court weighing in on the issue.

    “We hope that fair-minded people understand we didn’t make this decision out of ignorance,” McNamara said. “We had to weigh a lot of complex factors, and at the end of the day we did what we thought was best for our students.”

    McNamara emphasized the decision stemmed from concern that, in a boarding school context, an HIV-positive student could infect classmates.

    She added the Hershey Company has nothing to do with enrollment decisions.

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