People with Disabilities are at high risk of HIV due to barriers they experience in accessing health services in the country, Ministry of Health and Child Care official Dr Albert Mulingwa has said.
Speaking at the International Day of Albinism Awareness Commemorations on Saturday, Dr Mulingwa said people with disabilities form a significant percentage of the population but it is unfortunate that they remain a population at high risk of HIV, unintended pregnancy and sexual abuse.
“Albinism is a form of disability and people with albinism are sometimes stigmatized by society as well and this prevents them from seeking health services. This special population is often overlooked when it comes to health programs and service delivery within the regular channels,
“A common perception in some segments of society is that people with disabilities are sexually inactive and so not at risk of HIV infection and therefore not in need of HIV-related information, prevention and services,
“We have noted that people with disability have low level of knowledge and low risk perception towards HIV and are themselves in need of information and services to plan their families and prevent unintended pregnancies. Women and girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse leading to unintended pregnancy and HIV,” explained Mulingwa.
As the country drives towards these ambitious targets, a critical element is ‘Leaving No-one Behind’ meaning that everyone must have access to HIV testing and treatment services.
Speaking at the same event, Population Services International (PSI) Country Representative, Staci Leuschner leaving no one behind in the HIV Prevention and Treatment and Sexual Reproductive Health response has always been a key aspect of PSI’s work in Zimbabwe.
“PSI strongly supports the UNAIDS notion that we can only bring an end to new HIV infections and unintended pregnancies if we ensure that no one is left behind in the provision of HIV prevention, treatment and sexual reproductive health services by making sure that vulnerable populations such as people living with albinism and other disabilities can access health services in a free and non stigmatized environment,
“To celebrate World Albinism Awareness Day, we felt that it was only proper for us to spend the day together offering these services to people living with Albinism,” she said.