HIV/AIDS ALSO AFFECTS PERSONS WITH DISABILITIES

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The three students who won the top prizes in the National Disabilities Unit (NDU) sponsored HIV/AIDS poster competition have been encouraged to impart what they had learnt from the exercise to their peers.

This advice has come from Carmen Shepherd, Senior Administrative Officer in the Ministry of Social Transformation, who told the students that, by spreading the message to their friends, they would be “advocating the cause for empowering and promoting the advancement of Persons With Disabilities.”

She made the comments recently while addressing an awards ceremony at the Staff Common Room of the University of the West Indies. Daunte Haynes of the Grantley Adams Memorial School won the competition, while Danielle Lorde of Lester Vaughan and Denisha Goodridge of Combermere placed second and third, respectively.

Mrs. Shepherd told the gathering that there was a misconception that persons with disabilities (PWDs) did not engage in sexual activity and were not at risk to HIV/AIDS. “The reality is that persons with disabilities have sexual urges like the rest of the population. Regrettably, they are some of the most marginalised in the world and, as a result, are largely overlooked in efforts to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS.

“The implications of HIV/AIDS infection for this sub-group in the population have been ignored. But, the fact is, every major risk factor linked to HIV infection is also present in this population group. For example, poverty is one of the risk factors linked to HIV infection and researchers have shown that persons with disabilities are more likely than able-bodied persons to live in poverty, likely to be uneducated and likely to be unemployed,” she said.

The Senior Administrative Officer stated that the NDU had developed and implemented an HIV/AIDS Strategic Plan for PWDs, which reflected the goal of the national HIV/AIDS programme to ensure that every Barbadian would be aware of the means through which the disease could be contracted.

She added that the Unit had partnered with a number of agencies within the private and public sectors to ensure that appropriate programmes were created and executed to realise the objectives of the strategic plan.

Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Education, Atheline Haynes, lauded the Unit for funding the competition. She said that children did not always express their thoughts verbally, but told their stories by scribbling and painting.

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