Disabilities, HIV and AIDS.
More than 15% of the world’s population live with a disability, which equates to more than one billion people. Recent studies have suggested that HIV prevalence amongst people living with disabilities is as high as 16.7%.
HIV and disability are linked in a number of ways. Although HIV-related data on people with disabilities is extremely limited, growing evidence suggests disabled people are more likely to experience factors that put them at higher risk of HIV infection than people who are not disabled. In addition, there is a misconception that people with disabilities are sexually inactive or unlikely to use drugs or alcohol, which means they have been left out of HIV screening. Conversely, HIV and disability are linked as people can develop disabilities as a result of the progression of HIV or due to the side-effects of antiretroviral treatments.
Often family, caregivers, employers and health-care providers fail to fully understand or appreciate the risk of HIV transmission amongst people with disabilities and in addition, many people with disabilities are unaware of their own needs or consequences from engaging in potentially risky behaviours. Yet people with disabilities experience all of the risk factors associated with acquiring HIV. They are often at an increased risk because of poverty, face severely limited access to education and healthcare, and lack the information and resources needed to live healthy lifestyles.
People with disabilities often face multiple barriers to accessing service. This is, in part, because people with disabilities have not been included in the design and development of these services and hence have not been able to articulate their needs. For instance, many HIV testing and counselling programmes provide limited services in sign language for people with hearing impairment or the information given may be incomprehensible to people with intellectual impairment. Many people with disabilities also experience a lack of confidentiality when seeking support or testing for HIV because of communication barriers and the need to involve a third person for interpretation or support. As a result, people with disabilities often decline to access what services are available.
This year’s theme for World AIDS day is “global solidarity, shared responsibility”. Advocacy Matters stand in solidarity with all vulnerable people and will fight to eliminate stigma and discrimination faced by people living with disabilities. Advocacy Matters recognises the challenges and are able to provide confidential, non-judgmental service to people living with disabilities across Walsall and Birmingham.