HIV and AIDS News

Disabled people at higher risk of HIV

Written by Thabo Molelekwa

People living with disabilities are often left out of HIV programs despite the fact that they are disproportionately at risk. Treatment Action Campaign activists say that, unless this is addressed, South Africa will struggle to reach the 90-90-90 target set by UNAids.

File photo.

The idea is that by 2020, 90% of people who are HIV infected will be diagnosed; 90% of people who are diagnosed will be on antiretroviral treatment and 90% of those who receive antiretrovirals will be virally suppressed.

Rosemary Brown is one of the researchers on the HPTN 071 (PopART)  study,  a randomized trial evaluating an HIV prevention package in 21 communities in Zambia and South Africa.

Brown told the SA Aids conference that the study had shown that people living with disabilities were at higher risk of acquiring HIV. The reason for this was that “few HIV programs sufficiently address the needs of people with disabilities.”

Scale up services

Getting access to HIV testing and treatment services was often challenging for people with disabilities. “Scale up of HIV testing and treatment services for people with disabilities requires decentralisation through community based services,” she said.

TAC’s Portia Serote  revealed that children in informal settlements who lived with disabilities and were unable to attend school were also missing out on vaccination against the human papilloma virus, which can cause cervical cancer. This was because government was only carrying out vaccinations in school when girls were in Grade 4.

“Those children are at risk of being raped. They are therefore vulnerable to all kinds of diseases but they are always left out of HIV programs.” said Serote.

“If the government continues to exclude the people living with disabilities, it is not likely that the country will reach the 90-90-90 goal,” she said.

This story was published on What’sUpHIV blog.

About the author

Thabo Molelekwa

Thabo Molelekwa joined OurHealth citizen journalists project in 2013 and went on to become an intern reporter in 2015. Before joining Health-e News, Thabo was a member of the Treatment Action Campaign’s Vosloorus branch. He graduated from the Tshwane University of Technology with a diploma in Computer Systems and started his career at Discovery Health as a claims assessor. In 2016 he was named an International HIV Prevention Reporting Fellow with the International Centre for Journalists and was a finalist in the Discovery Health Journalism Awards competition in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Thabo also completed a feature writing course at the University of Cape Town in 2016. In 2017 he became a News reporter , he is currently managing the Citizen Journalism programme.You can follow him on @molelekwa98