By Philippa Robbins|
Sexual attacks by predators on people living with disabilities has left them vulnerable to HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe, a report says.
“Most people with disabilities are vulnerable to sexual abuse,” says the report, Issues for Persons with Disability in Relation to Sexual and Reproductive Health, HIV and AIDS: The Zimbabwe Case.
“This makes it even more critical for them to be part of national health strategies focussing on HIV prevention.”
A 2012 study by the UN said HIV/AIDS and disability was an “emerging issue” and “cause for concern” as people living with disabilities were at greater risk of exposure to HIV infection due to social exclusion and rejection.
“People living with disabilities are at great risk of acquiring HIV, while empirical evidence has also demonstrated that people with sensory impairments – the deaf and the blind – are more vulnerable than others, due to their special communication needs,” the report says.
It also noted that:
* The disabled are often excluded from national HIV and AIDS programmes;
* The disabled suffer lack of confidentiality at voluntary HIV counselling and testing centres due to the presence of an interpreter;
* There is no policy or programme to assist caregivers with skills to help the disabled in HIV prevention;
* Most health care centres are inaccessible to disabled people, leaving them at the mercy of relatives and strangers to access services.
* There is general absence of literature and media images that “incorporate the HIV and AIDS information needs of people with disability, especially the deaf and blind”.