People with disabilities are not being reached by AIDS programmes - Leonard Cheshire Disability and Inclusive Development Centre
26 July 2012
People with disabilities continue to be overlooked in global HIV/AIDS prevention efforts, the Leonard Cheshire Disability and Inclusive Development Centre has said at the close of the AIDS 2012 conference , as the centre calls for an increase in programmes that ensure that sexual and reproductive health education and services include people with disabilities.
Worldwide, one person in seven lives with a disability, and 80% of these people live in developing countries [2
]. Well-established HIV risk factors, such as poverty, lack of education, social marginalisation and risk of sexual violence, are of increased concern for millions of people with disabilities who are disproportionately among the world’s poorest.
In a recent interview, Professor Nora Groce, director of the Leonard Cheshire Disability and Inclusive Development Centre at University College London, noted that a growing body of research reveals that men and women with disabilities are as likely as all other members of society to be sexually active, or to use alcohol or drugs (additional risk factors for becoming HIV positive) and are at increased risk of being victims of violence or rape.
Despite this, Professor Groce said, in countries around the world, people with disabilities are less likely than non-disabled individuals to receive AIDS education, or the medical, economic and social support available to others if they become infected. The reason for this is that governments and health experts often mistakenly assume that people with disabilities are sexually inactive or that their health and well-being is of a lower priority than those of non-disabled people.
Professor Groce relates a common story she has heard from many in the field: "I recently spoke to a deaf man who was turned away from an HIV testing centre in East Africa by a nurse who incorrectly assured him, ‘We don’t test people like you. You can’t get AIDS, you’re already disabled.’ The man had to go to two other clinics before being tested to confirm his suspicion that he did, in fact, have AIDS."
The AIDS 2012 conference is currently taking place in Washington DC (22-27 July). It is the largest global gathering of professionals working in the field of HIV, and plays a fundamental role in shaping the global response to the disease.
A small but committed group of international disability advocates and researchers have come together in Washington to create a presence at the conference – presenting recent research and advocating for the inclusion of persons with disabilities to the wider AIDS research community. Among these is campaigner Sara Moshana from Leonard Cheshire Disability Young Voices
Namibia, who organises HIV and pregnancy education programmes on her university campus, and is a representative on the Disability and HIV Leadership Forum.
Professor Nora Groce comments: "The AIDS crisis cannot be successfully addressed until people with disabilities are routinely targeted in AIDS/HIV outreach and education efforts. Today, despite the fact that we are three decades into the AIDS epidemic, with billions of dollars and hundreds of thousands of committed health workers, researchers and administrators being involved, only a handful of programmes including people with disabilities exist at any level. Given their numbers and relative risk, unless people with disabilities are reached, we will not be able to successfully address the AIDS crisis."
Notes for editors
1) The AIDS 2012--XIX International AIDS Conference, 22nd - 27th July 2012, Washington DC, is the is the premier gathering for those working in the field of HIV. AIDS 2012 is convened by the International AIDS Society and the conference’s permanent partners are the Global Network of People Living with HIV (GNP+); the International Council of AIDS Service PUBLIC STATEMENT Organizations (ICASO); the International Community
2) World Health Organization and the World Bank. 2011. World Report on Disability
. Geneva: WHO.
For all media enquiries, please contact Ruth Somerville in Leonard Cheshire Disability’s press office on 020 3242 0313/ruth.somerville@LCDisability.org
or Theresa Hart on 020 3242 0290/theresa.hart@LCDisability.org
. Out of hours: 07903 949 388.