In 2007, Rwanda passed a law related to protection of persons with disabilities (PWDs), which grants PWDs the right to protection and other rights like every other citizen.
Despite this, they are still exposed to challenges that make them vulnerable.
On the sideline of the 20th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa (ICASA), a session to discuss the accessibility of services for people living with disability was held.
The main focus was enabling people with disabilities to access HIV/AIDS services.
Presenters were dominantly people with different disabilities who challenged the audience to acknowledge that they can play big role in societies when well empowered.
In Africa, HIV prevalence is 2-4 times higher among people with disabilities.
The trend is higher because PWDs are likely to face sexual violence. In addition, many of them do not know about their HIV status and findings presented during the session indicated that only 30 percent disabled people with HIV/AIDS are aware.
Omar Siddo was one of the speakers and presides over the Federation of People Living with Disabilities in Niger.
Visually impaired, Siddo told the audience that PWDs are as able as others if they are granted equal opportunity and rights. And that includes rights to HIV/AIDS treatment services.
“Just as there are women and men, it’s the same way there are people with disability. They are entitled to right to be treated, so it is not a favor, accessing HIV services is a right we deserve,” he said.
Siddo added that only when disabled people are discriminated or denied their rights, otherwise they are as important in contributing to the society.
A long journey to go
Antonio Pedro is a PWD from Cape Verde and one of the participants at the session.
Although he sees some changes, there is still a long way to go, not just access to services but even encouraging disability-friendly environment.
“Laws are there but in reality it is different. I usually have hard time accessing public places. So apart from HIV services, there are a lot of things that have to be done,” he told The New Times.
Besides, although PWDs are entitled to accessing HIV and other services, this need financing and political will, so it might take longer, he added.
According to UNAIDS, people with disability are 2.21 times more likely to get infected than ordinary people. 300 million people in Africa live with disabilities with a quarter of them being school-aged children.
Suspected reasons for the increasing trend is that health facilities are often physically inaccessible or unaffordable for impoverished disabled.Follow Ange_Iliza