International Day of People with Disabilities

4 December 2020

People with disabilities experience significant challenges in accessing health care. They face stigma and discrimination in their homes, families and communities, lack adequate transport to health care facilities and are faced with poor attitudes of health workers while seeking health care. 
People with disabilities have been excluded and neglected in all of the sectors responding to HIV. HIV prevalence data among people with disabilities are scarce. Data from sub-Saharan Africa suggest an increased risk of HIV infection of 1.48 times in men with disabilities and 2.21 times in women with disabilities compared with men without disabilities.
Access to HIV prevention, care, treatment and support and sexual and reproductive health and rights services is equally important, and in some cases even more important, for people with disabilities compared with their peers without disabilities.

  • Mwape Davis Mulenga (Davis)

    Mwape Davis Mulenga (Davis)

    I lost my sight at six. Before then I was like all other children. Then I had a disease ,and my parents took me to the hospital and by the time I woke up I couldn’t see anymore. The first few years were difficult, but I learned how to make bamboo furniture. I’m quite good, so my business and the recognition I get from it have been fulfilling. Through my work I also met my wife and we have two beautiful children who also help me move around. It’s a simple life but a happy one.I have tested for HIV four times in my life, because I know the symptoms are similar to malaria, so when I don’t feel well I also ask to get tested for HIV. Unfortunately, I have never come across informative material in Braille or had a nurse or doctor explain to me in detail issues related to prevention of HIV, but I know from my community that HIV can become AIDS and that can be fatal. I have two small children and I’m the breadwinner, so I can’t afford to be sick. Some people in our community live with HIV and take HIV treatment and they seem to be doing fine, so if I ever get HIV I want to get treatment and also continue my work and live happily with my family.The biggest challenge I face when it comes to accessing health services, aside from mobility, is privacy. It’s important for us visually impaired to maintain our privacy about our own health. I sometimes feel uncomfortable asking my wife how drugs should be used or having her giving them to me because the difference between the medicines wasn’t explained.
  • Abraham Mwango

    Abraham Mwango

    I live in Luapula Province and I’ve lived with a disability since I contracted polio as a child. I walk with a cane but that hasn’t sopped me from having a full and quite adventurous life. I am originally from Northern Province. I was born there and worked in many different places—I even worked for three years in the Zambia cinemas. I was selling tickets and managed to see all the movies during the last projection in the evening, sometimes there would be only one or two people, and I felt so privileged to have almost the whole cinema to myself!Despite my disability I have been married for 32 years and my wife and I have eight children together. It has been hard at times, but I love my family and for that reason I want to protect my wife and be there for my children. If I’m not feeling well, I go to the health centre and ask to be tested for HIV. I am never worried because I know my chances of testing positive are slim, but it’s important for me to know straight away if I do so I can get started on HIV treatment and move on with my life. At my age the only thing that matters is that I’m strong and healthy enough to see more grandchildren and be there for my wife is she needs me.
  • Mirriam Chama

    Mirriam Chama

    I think it’s particularly important for us people living with disabilities to take care of our health, because due to our limited mobility we have less chances of access health services. When we do we need to make the best of them. When my husband was alive we tested for HIV together. He passed away so I stopped testing. I never experienced any direct discrimination at health facilities, neither when I asked for HIV testing nor when I was pregnant, which I have been three times. I definitely had difficulties in accessing the facilities, either while getting there or simply to get on the examining table or climb the stairs. I wish health services were more inclusive in that regard. With reduced mobility , we need to be able to benefit from all the services other people benefit from.
  • Kombe Witness

    Kombe Witness

    I developed a disability following a disease that I had at 15 years of age. It was hard because suddenly I wasn’t like everybody else anymore, but I did my best to advance in other fields. I learnt English and I studied hard. Aside from my reduced mobility, all my other senses work well and I could have a regular office job. Instead, I’m on the Social Cash Transfer (SCT), a mechanism in place in Zambia to support people in extreme poverty and living with serious disabilities, which is good, because it gives me a little income to rely on. But I feel I have more to give to my community than just taking the SCT and sitting at home.I took HIV tests several times throughout my life, because I feel that us people living with disabilities are often “forgotten” when it comes to HIV prevention. Nobody seems to think that, like everyone else, we fall in love and want to have sex. If we are not told how to have it safely and if we are not told about the availability of free HIV testing and HIV treatment, we are left out of the system and can expose ourselves and potentially others to risk.I have been married for four years and I have three children, two of which are twins. I think that if people living with disabilities were considered less as a separate group and more mainstreamed across society, we would also be less exposed to HIV because we would have as much information as everybody else.
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