Remembering People with Disabilities on World AIDS Day

by Jessica Charles

Last Saturday, December 1, we joined with the World Health Organization (WHO) and our global partners to commemorate the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day.
 
HIV continues to be a major global public health issue, having claimed more than 35 million lives so far.
 
In 2017, 940,000 people died from HIV-related causes globally.
 
Fortunately, we are making progress:
  • the annual number of new infections has declined ~15% globally since 2010 and
  • global AIDS-related deaths have fallen by more than half (51%) from the peak of about 1.9 million in 2004.

 

Despite this progress, people with disabilities remain underserved in HIV prevention and care efforts because:

  • There is a common misconception that people with disabilities are sexually inactive, which often leaves them out of HIV programs
  • Information materials and disseminating approaches are rarely adapted to the communication and physical needs of people with disabilities
  • People living with HIV in developing nations often face factors, such as malnutrition or irregular access to anti-retroviral treatment, that put them at greater risk of developing HIV-related disabilities.

 

Today, the poorest countries in the world carry the greatest burden of HIV-related disability including hearing loss, neuro-cognitive disorders, dementia, motor dysfunction, speech problems, peripheral neuropathy, and ‘fat wasting’ which can result in permanent disfigurement and pain, and can reduce a person’s ability to walk, stand or sit.

How Kupenda is Addressing the Gap

Since its founding in 2003, Kupenda for the Children has been working to improve the lives of children with disabilities by mainstreaming disability services within HIV prevention and treatment efforts. These efforts have inspired thousands of leaders and organizations to take responsibility for delivering tailored HIV education and health services for children with disabilities in their communities. Such systemic changes have improved quality of life, health and inclusion for thousands of children with disabilities in Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia and Sierra Leone through:

  • HIV programs that are customized to meet the diverse physical and communication needs of children with disabilities;
  • Improved capacity of teachers to educate children with disabilities about HIV and other sexually transmitted infections,
  • Improved capacity of health professionals to test and treat children with disabilities and their parents for HIV,
  • Policy reform / enforcement to enhance inclusive practices, accessible facilities and available resources to include children with disabilities in HIV programs

 

Because of these efforts and your generosity, fewer children with disabilities are contracting HIV and dying from AIDS.

Thank you for your support of this important work.


About the Author


Jessica Charles


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