Three Government agencies are about to embark upon a programme to sensitise persons with disabilities (PWDs), especially the youth and their family members, about HIV/AIDS, and to educate them about the challenges and effects of the associated stigma and discrimination.

The National Disabilities Unit (NDU), the Ministry of Health, and the Welfare Department will be initiating a Disability/HIV/AIDS Community Sensitisation Drive on Saturday, June 28, beginning at 1:00 p.m., in Queen’s Park, the City. It will be mounted under the theme, “Empowering the Youth: Bridging the Disability/HIV/AIDS Divide”.

Activities will include individual counselling tents for the hearing and visually impaired and the intellectually challenged; blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol checks; and informative messages regarding HIV/AIDS and PWDs.

According to an NDU official, “the provision of sexual health knowledge is especially important for PWDs, since it is commonly assumed that disabled individuals are not at risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. They are incorrectly thought to be sexually inactive, unlikely to use drugs and to be at less risk of violence than their non-disabled peers.”

The campaign forms part of the NDU’s HIV/AIDS and Sexuality Awareness Programme for PWDs, which began in 2001. The Programme’s objective is to raise the awareness of PWD’s about the ravages of the disease, and to provide parents, caregivers and teachers within the Special Education sector with an opportunity for sensitisation. 

The NDU, in implementing the HIV/AIDS and Sexuality Awareness Programme, “recognised the need to provide information in a suitable format that caters to persons of all disability types, adhering to the rubric – ‘leave no one out’”. Of particular concern too is the issue of self esteem of PWDs and the need to empower them with respect to relationships and sexual practices, and preventative measures for safeguarding themselves against the disease.

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