Effort needed to make HIV/AIDS outreach more inclusive

17 Jul 2013 07:40
WINDHOEK, 17 JUL (NAMPA) - It is a national challenge to include Namibians living with disabilities in HIV/AIDS outreach efforts, an official of a local AIDS awareness organisation said on Wednesday.
Sandi Tjarondo, the executive director of the Namibia Networks of AIDS Service Organisations (Nanaso), told Nampa many people living with disabilities, especially those who are hearing and visually impaired, are not adequately integrated in HIV/AIDS programmes.
?We have realised that and are working with sub-recipients on how to include them in our programmes,? Tjarondo said.
There are 105 000 people living with disabilities in Namibia, making up five per cent of the population.
Individuals living with disabilities are also sexually active and at risk.
He emphasised that HIV/AIDS represents a significant threat to disabled individuals and populations around the globe.
The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (GFATM) and the Namibian Government a week ago signed a more than N.dollars 1,2 billion (US dollars 120 million) grant agreement to fight HIV/AIDS and malaria for a three-year period (2013 to 2016).
Of that money, about N.dollars 200 million (US dollars 20 million) is earmarked for Nanaso, the principle recipient, who will then share the funds amongst various sub-recipients, which include HIV organisations which are the implementers of the HIV programmes.
According to Tjarondo, it is evident that HIV/AIDS in the country cannot be addressed successfully unless individuals living with disabilities are routinely part of all AIDS outreach efforts.
Tjarondo raised the alarm that individuals living with disabilities, especially the hearing and visually impaired, are less likely to receive messages about HIV/AIDS and are less likely to have access to condoms, or other prevention methods.
Lack of knowledge of disability and awareness of disability issues among individuals, AIDS workers, and civil society organisations could also be the primary barrier.
It is hoped that all HIV/AIDS organisations will be prompted to consider inclusion of individuals living with disability.
?We want to address the gap of people living with disability as soon as possible,? he added.
Research from the World Bank on HIV/AIDS and Disability has shown that people living with disabilities are at great risk of acquiring HIV, while empirical evidence has also demonstrated that people with sensory impairments ? such as being hearing and visually impaired ? are more vulnerable than others, due to their special communication needs.
In addition, there has been a very wide gap in the provision of HIV/AIDS services, as well as information related to sexual and reproductive health rights, for the deaf. They are generally not considered in programming, not by design, but as a result of the lack of sign language articulation amongst the majority of service providers.
Discussions between Nanaso and the GFATM about the recipients of the funds are in the final stages and might be concluded this week.