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Disabled HIV infected overlooked in prevention campaigns
July 18, 2012
vulnerable to rape and other forms of sexual abuse, disabled people
are often overlooked in national HIV prevention strategies because
policy makers do not perceive them as sexually active, representatives
of disabled groups said on Tuesday.
"If we look at the current National Aids Strategic Plan for
2008 to 2015, it fails to mention people living with disabilities
and they are not deliberately targeted in the national response,"
Hamida Ismail of the Disability,
HIV and AIDS Trust (DHAT) told audiences at a Food for Thought
discussion session held at the United States Embassy's Public
Affairs Section Auditorium.
She said the unavailability of disaggregated national statistics
with specific numbers of people living with disabilities made their
plight worse. However, she said, the percentage of disabled people
living positively was very high.
"There are gaps in terms of the supportive networks. We have
the Zimbabwe Network
for Persons Living Positively with HIV (ZNNPP+), but these do
not cater for many disabled yet we have a very high number of people
with disabilities living with HIV," said Ismail who made her
full presentation in sign language.
She applauded the progress done by HIV service organisations in
Zimbabwe to raise awareness and reduce HIV prevalence, but pointed
out that these were not targeting the disabled.
Aids Council has come up with good strategies but people with
disabilities don't know about them - they are not informed
and are not targeted," she said.
Ismail challenged organisations to use human-rights based interventions
for the disabled living with HIV. She highlighted that their help
was limited, however, and at times they failed to come through on
She said the Disability Grant provided by the government was inadequate
and the process of acquiring the funding was too cumbersome for
disabled people resulting in deserving individuals failing to access
"The government has come up with really good programmes [like]
the Cash Transfer Programme where they are giving people with disabilities
$20 a month, but one has to go through a rigorous process to get
the money. As a result, a significant portion of the disabled fail
to access the funding."
Apart from being excluded from national HIV/Aids programmes, Ismail
highlighted challenges including stigma, discrimination, and high
levels of poverty especially in the rural areas. She noted the disabled
often face a lack of confidentiality at voluntary counselling and
testing centres due to the presence of an interpreter.
"Communities are not sensitized, even health workers have
a general assumption that disabled people are asexual (and) unfortunately
the judiciary has not been sensitized, they don't know how
to defend women and girls with disabilities who have been raped,"
She said these challenges could be overcome by developing disability-friendly
information that the disabled could understand, particularly for
the blind and deaf.
DHAT was established in 2007 to promote the rights and capacity
of Persons with Disabilities infected and affected by HIV and AIDS.
Ismali said the organisation had started working with the Population
Services International Zimbabwe on the male circumcision campaign
to also include disabled people.
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