Participants at a recent media training in Lagos have called for the inclusion of persons with disability (PWDs) in programmes on sexual and reproductive health (SRH) to enable them uptake services on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.
These are the high points of the training on Increasing Uptake of Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) Services Among Persons with Disabilities in Lagos State.
The Executive Director of Journalists Against AIDS (JAAIDS), OlaideAkanni urged governments at all levels, the private sector and civil society groups to create HIV programmes that include PWDs as a strategy to prevent HIV infections among them.
According to her, one of the approaches of achieving this objective was for the general public to re-think and re-shape their perception of PWDs.
She said people must debunk the myth that PWDs are asexual. This is based on the belief that they don’t have sex or engage in partnerships; hence, most people are of the view that there is no point discussing the use of condom or HIV prevention messages with them.
On the contrary, the executive director of JAAIDS said, “Information should not be restricted from PWDs because they are sexually active like other people who don’t have disability and “we need to see the humanity in all of these. “Many of them are adults that also have needs of sexual activities. Some have issues of how to properly wear condoms correctly while others are conservative on sexual and condom use.
“Despite visual impairment, there should be advocacy on ensuring they know when a condom has expired; even if they can’t see the expiry date, it should be imprinted in braille on the condom pack.”
The media training wasorganised by Journalists Against AIDS (JAAIDS) in collaboration with the Nigeria Association of the Blind, with support from MannionDanniels, a non-government organisation that supports governments, communities and organisations to deliver public health services that benefit the people who need them most.
Talking about, providing access to HIV and AIDS testing, Akanni said, “We need to ensure that health facilities are accessible to PLWDs because there are persons with disability who have HIV and AIDS.
“It is important to consider PWDs in our programming so that whatever the informational material regarding HIV and AIDS that are made available to them, will reach them.”
Akanni said the aim of the training is to help educate the journalists and debunk the myth about disability and also to create a platform where PWDs can speak about their concerns in terms of being able to access SRH in Lagos State.
She said disability is not just a medical condition; there are whole lots of issues attached to it. There is a social and human right aspect of disability.
According to available data, about 15 per cent of the population is living with disability, whichis viewed as mere individuals who need charity. But it is not everybody living with disability that is a less privileged, she noted, adding,“A lot of them are gainfully employed and are adding values to the society and need to be reflected and portrayed as such.”
On his part, a member of the Board, Lagos State (LASODA) Office of Disability Affair , Dr. Adebayo Adebukola lamented that due to long-term exclusion from HIV/AIDS programming, many PWDs have become vulnerable. “If we don’t capture PWDs in HIV programmes, the target of governments to reduce HIV will not be achieved.”
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