Facing higher risk of HIV infection

Celebral Palsy treatment center in New York (UN Photo/John Isaac)

There is often a misconception that individuals with disabilities are at lower risk of being infected with HIV. But a recent Yale University survey reveals that this group actually face a greater risk of exposure to HIV as they often lack access to prevention, treatment and support services due to obstacles including inaccessible health care centers and lack of information.

Issues on AIDS and disability were highlighted in connection with the 2011 High-level Meeting on AIDS on 9 June at the AIDS and Disability Partners Forum, organized by UNAIDS in collaboration with DESA, Health Canada, USAID, the US State Department, Global Partnership for Disability and Development, ILO, UNICEF and WHO.

The panelists underscored the fact that people who both have a disability and AIDS, face double stigma and consequently a double burden. They also highlighted the importance of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, adopted in 2006, as it provides a framework to integrate AIDS programming for persons with disabilities.

At the same time, the need to turn the Convention and international laws into national laws and to incorporate disability components in all AIDS programming was stressed by the participants.

The event coincided with the release that same day of the first ever World Report on Disability by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank. The report reveals that there are over one billion people living with disabilities around the world, corresponding to about 15% of the global population. Between 110-190 million face severe difficulties.

The report stresses that few countries have adequate mechanisms to respond to the needs of people with disabilities. Obstacles include stigma and discrimination, lack of adequate health care and rehabilitation; and inaccessible transport, buildings and information and communication technologies.

“Disability is part of the human condition,” says WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan. “Almost every one of us will be permanently or temporarily disabled at some point in life. We must do more to break the barriers which segregate people with disabilities, in many cases forcing them to the margins of society.”

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