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Disabled highly vulnerable to HIV

[Zimbabwe] The female condom was introduced in Zimbabwe in 1997 - billboard.
Zimbabwe's lower HIV prevalence was a positive development (The Female Health Company (FHC))

The special needs of disabled people need to be urgently addressed in AIDS awareness programmes if the worrying rate of infection is to be curbed, according to Zimbabwean NGOs working with people living with disabilities.

More than 1.2 million people in Zimbabwe are disabled, of which 300,000 are HIV positive. The instructions for the use of condoms have never been distributed in braille for people with visual impairments and no attempts have been made to advertise condoms in sign language for those with hearing difficulties, according to Farai Gasa Mukuta, president of the National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped (NASCOH).

NASCOH, an umbrella body representing organisations for the disabled, has produced a video- and an audiotape on HIV/AIDS in an attempt to address the information gap.

The two tapes - 'An HIV/AIDS Sign Language Vocabulary' and 'Dancing with Death' - attempt to package information in a way that will appeal to the needs of the disabled.

The sign language vocabulary is a compilation of 69 terms associated with HIV/AIDS, while 'Dancing With Death' is a video drama that tackles the issues of sexuality, sexual abuse and HIV/AIDS among the disabled, enacted in sign language with a voice-over for the blind.

Contrary to the popular belief that people with disabilities had no sex lives and therefore were not at risk of contracting HIV, Mukuta said most of them were sexually active. However, in many cases, the disabled did not have access to sufficient sex education to protect themselves.

Mukuta said the vulnerability of the disabled to HIV infection was worsened by poverty. "Disabled women often struggle to make ends meet and you find able bodied men taling advantage of them ... The women have to resort to using their bodies for transactional sex and this increases their risk of HIV infection."

The Zimbabwean government awards disabled persons a grant of just Zim $15,000 (less than US $3) per month.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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