Sunday, May 22, 2011

In Zimbabwe, people with disabilities who are also HIV positive struggle

From The Standard in Zimbabwe:

Forty-five-year-old Ronald Ndlovu says he led a normal life until 2006 when he lost his eyesight before testing HIV-positive. The blindness suddenly made it impossible for him to do some of the things he used to do for survival. But he believes the HIV diagnosis was the biggest blow.

Before he lost his sight, Ndlovu, who hails from rural Lupane in Matabeleland North, said he had not paid much attention to literature on Aids.

“At this point in my life I realise the importance of being able to see,” he said.

“When I needed information there was no one who was prepared to read for me and yet I had so little information on Aids.”

He also searched for information on Aids in Braille to no avail.

Braille is a technique that enables the blind and visually-impaired people to read and write.

Ndlovu’s problems were not limited to lack of information but also protection from further infection as he had difficulties in using condoms.

“The struggle does not end there, because at times when I would try to use protection it was difficult to use condoms properly,” he said.
“I would end up abandoning protection but there was always the risk of re-infection.”

Ndlovu said he realised that he was not the only one battling with such problems after he became chairperson for a support group of people living with disabilities in Bulawayo.

“One of our members is deaf and she faces a lot of challenges when she visits health institutions as almost all the health-givers do not know sign language,” Ndlovu said.

“This means she must always be accompanied by a translator, even in situations where confidentiality is needed.”

Sarah Makoni from Highfield, who is HIV-positive and wheelchair-bound because her legs are paralysed, also had a similar tale to tell.

She said most health institutions and Aids-testing centres were inaccessible to disabled people. Some health workers also tend to ill-treat disabled patients, said the 38-year-old Makoni. Challenges faced by people with disabilities have prompted calls for health authorities to also consider them when preparing information on HIV and Aids.