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Disability and HIV / AIDS

Little attention has so far been given to the risk of HIV/AIDS and the unique challenges faced by persons with disabilities (PWDs) in Uganda. A number of damaging misconceptions are still common, for example that disabled people are not at risk of HIV as they are not believed to be sexually active or at risk of violence and rape. Yet, existing evidence points in the exact opposite direction, namely that disabled people are actually at increased risk for every known risk factor of HIV/AIDS.

Recent studies conducted in Uganda indicate that 38% of women and 35% of men with disability reported having had a sexually transmitted disease (STD) at one time, which should give rise for concern considering the high correlations among STDs and HIV/AIDS. Other studies show that women with disabilities are more vulnerable to sexual abuse and consequently transmission of HIV than non-disabled women due to vulnerability, stigmatisation and people’s prejudices.

The recent house hold survey (2011) indicates that HIV/AIDs is on the increase with prevalence rate being at 7.3% up from 6.4%. In spite of this, however, no national study has established the prevalence among PWDs in Uganda.

The situation is worsened by the fact that there are no explicit HIV interventions targeting PWDs and even where efforts have been made to address disability concerns, the interventions address a few categories. Available HIV/AIDS services and policies do not provide for special emphasis on disability friendly services especially for Women with Disabilities (WWDs) but are rather lumped under the vulnerable populations. Even the National Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS gives limited attention to disability. The relationship between gender, disability and HIV/AIDS is even not well catered for in the plan.

This kind of situation calls for concerted efforts to put in place interventions that can address HIV and disability, such as advocacy and networking, direct service intervention, awareness and capacity building to address the gaps.
Intervention: NUDIPU together with its partners (DPOs) have formed the Disability Stakeholder HIV/AIDS Committee (DSHAC) to try and address the existing gaps through mainstreaming disability issues into national HIV/AIDS programmes. As a result of this partnership, a Uganda Disability Fraternity Five-Year HIV/AIDS Strategic plan (2007/08-2011/2012) was developed.

The goal was to ensure Universal Access to comprehensive and quality HIV/AIDS services for improved livelihood in Uganda, with the purpose of increasing HIV/AIDS prevention, care and treatment services to PWDs in Uganda. The Disability strategic plan is aligned to the National Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS under the thematic areas of universal access to prevention, care and support and care and treatment with a view of mitigating health effects of HIV/AIDS on the lives of PLWHAs.

The programme focus is on increasing access to HIV/AIDS prevention; care and treatment services to PWDs with emphasis on providing information to HIV/AIDS service providers about disability issues to influence service utilization. The programme aims at achieving the following;

  • Strengthening technical and institutional capacities of DPOs, HIV/AIDS service providers and PWDs in HIV/AID prevention and care.
  • Increasing awareness on HIV/AIDS and disability amongst service providers, PWDs and communities
  • Advocate for equal opportunities and equitable access to quality HIV/AIDS services by PWDs
  • Develop and strengthen partnerships between the disability fraternity, government, CSOs and other HIV/AIDS service providers.
  • Projects:

    a. Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Uganda.
    This project seeks to address the challenges and needs of persons with disabilities in achieving access to HIV/AIDS services in Uganda.
    The project was designed on the premise that whereas the government of Uganda has made tremendous strides in the fight against HIV/AIDS, interventions still did not take care of People with disabilities. With this in mind the project’s development objective is: To influence the National and Local policy and programme environment to be responsive to disability issues and needs by 2016. Its Immediate Objectives include:

  • PWDs with improved opportunities to access and utilise HIV/AIDS services (prevention, care and treatment) by 2016
  • Awareness for active participation of PWDs and the community on HIV/AIDS issues strengthened in Uganda by 2016
  • b. Awareness and sesitosation of HIV&AIDS Service providers to appreciate disability concerns, therebymaking their services disability sensitive.
    Objectives:

  • Consolidate linkages with the existing HIV/AIDS service providers in Kisoro, Kasese, Mpigi, Lira, Moroto and Jinja.
  • To increase access to information and services on HIV/AIDS by PWDs in districts of implementation
  • To strengthen NUDIPU’s capacity to monitor and evaluate HIV/AIDS programmes for PWDS in the districts of implementation

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