People with disabilities may be differently
abled but they have sex just like everyone else – a reality that health
workers, policies and sex education programmes have not caught up with,
according to the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC).
Among the most vulnerable
South Africa’s latest household HIV
prevalence survey found that about 17 percent of disabled people surveyed were
living with HIV – a percentage high enough to rank the group among the most
vulnerable to HIV infection in the country.
Read: HIV/Aids patients
Alongside a high HIV prevalence rate, the
report found that people living with disabilities were least likely to be able
to say how HIV was transmitted or how to prevent HIV infection. Almost 80
percent of disabled people surveyed also reported believing that they were at
low risk of HIV infection.
According to UNAIDS, people living with
disabilities worldwide remain one of the largest populations of people
vulnerable to HIV, yet gaps remain in both HIV, and sexual and reproductive
health services. The UN body says that this is part due to myths like those
that say disabled people are not interested in sex, or that they are unlikely
to engage in behaviours that might put them at risk of HIV lie drug and alcohol
Nomthandazo Sibeko is a TAC peer educator
in the Duduza, east of Johannesburg.
Sibeko says the high number of unplanned
pregnancies among women living with disabilities in her community may be a sign
that they are not getting the reproductive health services or information they
Globally, UNAIDS says that barriers to
education and health care such as accessibility and language mean that people
living with disabilities risk missing out on the sex education and health
To bridge the gap in Johannesburg’s East
Rand, the TAC recently held a community workshop on sexual health for members
of the Masihlanganeni Association for Disabled.
Read: Sexuality following disability or illness
Ever seen a condom with instructions
written in braille? Neither has TAC Community Mobiliser Fikile Mtsweni who says
it is symptomatic of unmet need for awareness information among those living
Association member Sakhile Radebe thanked
the TAC for the talk.
“I personally learned a lot today,” Radebe
said. “Even though some of the things they were talking about are things I
cannot see, the little that they taught me I believe will somehow help.”
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Image: Disabled person from Shutterstock
Health-e News is South Africa’s award-winning dedicated health news service producing news and in-depth analysis for the country’s print and television media.