Including people with disabilities in HIV/AIDS strategies
Published: 08 January 2013
HIV is a disease.
People with disabilities may be more at risk of HIV
This is because people with disabilities:
Much more needs to be done to stop people
People with disabilities who already have HIV
The growing relationship between HIV/AIDS and disability is cause for concern as persons with disabilities are at higher risk of exposure to HIV.
Despite evidence of this increased risk people with disabilities are rarely included in the policy debate regarding HIV and absent from the agenda of mainstreaming HIV organisations and government agencies, and seem to lack information on the matter as well as access to prevention programmes, sexual health services and resources.
The situation of people with disabilities is compounded by a number of societal barriers that hinder their participation in society, including education. This combined with stereotypes, discriminatory attitudes and myths regarding persons with disabilities and their sexuality leads to them often being excluded from sex education and sexual health services. Information is rarely provided in formats easily understood or used by people with intellectual disabilities.
In this regard persons with disabilities are more vulnerable to HIV as they are more likely to be abused, marginalized, discriminated against, illiterate, and poorer than the non-disabled population. Moreover it stands to fact that women and girls with disabilities are especially vulnerable to sexual assault or abuse. Persons with intellectual disabilities and those in institutions are also at a particularly high risk.
Yet people with disabilities have been largely ignored in the response to HIV/AIDS. Few organizations address the specific needs of people with disabilities in their programs. Though, including people with disabilities in HIV programs does not always require human or financial resources. It does require information and education about their needs, and commitment to ensure that all persons are guaranteed equal access to health information, treatment, and care.
Integrating their specific needs is a crucial component to mitigating the worsening condition of persons with disabilities. The failure to understand and provide essential information to persons with disabilities concerning HIV/AIDS results in their increasing marginalization.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities provides a global policy framework to promote the equal rights to health for persons with disabilities, including sexual and reproductive health, on par with those without disabilities and enables policies to implement AIDS programming for persons with disabilities and programmes to fight against stigma, discrimination and other barriers faced by persons living with HIV/AIDS.