MUTARE, MANICALAND —
People living with disabilities say the government should provide HIV/AIDS information to cater for their needs in order to combat its spread among them. Some members of the Freedom to the Disabled Persons in Zimbabwe say their members are getting infected owing to lack of HIV/AIDS information.
They say most HIV/AIDS pamphlets, condoms and related items are not written in braille though the Ministry of Health has been providing some relevant material for people living with disabilities.
Some of the people living with disabilities say they have struggled over the years to access HIV/AIDS information written in braille and to make matters worse, they have never attended workshops that normally conduct sessions in sign language.
Tapiwa Dzapasi of Freedom to the Persons in Zimbabwe says HIV/AIDS information packages are normally not properly packed as they are not written in braille while the deaf cannot receive information at times owing to lack of caregivers fluent in sign language.
“Most of the material on HIV/AIDS is sidelining people with disabilities for example, there is no information in braille material on AIDS. Most information is in written format and also the same applies on condom use as if the handicapped do not engage in the practice. We end up using condoms with very little or no information on their proper use and thus exposing many of us to infection.”
Dzapasi further says some people living with disabilities, like albinos, are being targeted by unscrupulous Zimbabweans who believe that having sex with them can result in them being cured of the HIV virus.
He says the bottom line is that they have been discriminated for a long time.
“These myths are very common among the people that a disabled person can cure an infected person. There is also an issue of accessibility of information where the disabled persons are excluded from accessing HIV information, maybe it is because we are a minority group who do not suit to get that information on the element of our disability. This has been happening for a very long time, years and it is still happening where such people are being deprived of the information.”
Dzapasi says all hope is not lost though since they strive to get included in data-sharing on many health issues.
“We want inclusion now and we are going to advocate and lobby for participation in all information-sharing forums in which we were previously excluded and in this way we save lives and also eradicate the infections of our people due to lack of information. The ‘NO’ to new HIV/AIDS infections by 2030 can only be attained if we are also involved as disabled persons.”
Wallace Mupfumwa of the Freedom to the Persons in Zimbabwe says all organizations involved with people living disabilities should work together to lobby the government to seriously take the health issues affecting them seriously.
Mupfumwa says this would prevent the abuse and exclusion of people living with disabilities from critical health information that has to be easily accessible and usable.
“As Freedom to the Disabled Persons in Zimbabwe we would want all DPOs (Disabled Persons Organisations) to have combined efforts to try to sensitize all citizens about disability, about HIV as it is correct that disabled person are not spared either from HIV. They are the most vulnerable people as there is a lot of myths around this as some would want to have affairs or sex with people with a disability so that they would be cured especially people with albinism are the most vulnerable and preferred. People who are wheel-chaired are another group that are targeted.”
Studio 7 was unable for get a comment from provincial medical officials and Health Minister David Parirenyatwa.