By: Tina Armstrong
Since its discovery of HIV/AIDS in the 1970s, there has been a myth that sexual relations with a physically disabled person would rid an HIV infected person of the virus. Coupled with this fallacy is the fact that persons with disabilities (PWDs) are often sidelined due to their inability to access necessary information.
This prompted the State Accountability and Voice Initiative (SAVI), a programme-initiative funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) of the UK government, designed to support responsible, accountable and inclusive State-level governance in Nigeria to organised a stakeholders forum with civil society groups and Health institutions to address the challenges PWDs are faced with and proffer solutions.
This stake-holders meeting provided a platform for people with disabilities under the Lagos State Civil Society Disability Policy Partnership to discuss and proffer solution to issues and challenges related to HIV/AID.
Dr. Dan Onwujekwe, a Senior Research Fellow at the National Institute of Medical Research (NIMR), in his lecture brought attention to the fact that HIV/AIDs can bring about disability as it attacks the immune system which can cause blindness in some instances or even paralysis.
He further stated that most of the PWDs are some of the less privileged ones in our society hence, information dissemination should be targeted at these groups while bearing in mind the different disabilities with its various peculiarities.
The Coordinator of the Nigerian Association of the Blind HIV/AIDS and sexual Reproductive Health Project for Blind Adolescents and Youths, Miss Ejiro Okotie said that the issues of confidentiality, discrimination and stigma were the reasons that prevented PWDs from disclosing their status and seeking help.
Also Chairman of the Nigerian Association of the Blind Dr. Opeoluwa Akinola, pointed out that no vital provisions such as alternative means of communication and transportation have been put in place to help PWDs who visit health centers.
He expressed hopes that through more sensitization programme, the society would be enlightened and fallacious belief that PWDs were immune to HIV/AIDs as perceived by some people would be corrected.
The Secretary of the National Association of the Blind Dr. Bukola Adebayo, emphasized the importance of Sex Education to children and adolescents as a preventive measure against HIV/AIDS. He added that there was need to recognize the issues and challenges faced by people with disabilities in the society.