We’re also sexually active: Disabled people


PERSONS with Disabilities (PWDs) are deliberately not targeted in the national response to HIV and Aids because policymakers do not think they are also sexually active.

By Phyllis Mbanje

Sally Nyakanyanga, from Disability, HIV/Aids Trust (DHAT), an organisation which promotes the rights and capacity of PWDs infected and affected by HIV and Aids, said disabled persons were also vulnerable to rape and other forms of sexual abuse, but it was mostly overlooked.

She said most of them were living with the HIV virus, but failing to access life-saving treatment.

“Persons with disabilities are not taken as a group of people that can be consulted when developing policies and strategies for programming and decision-making. Again, on national surveys, PWDs are not properly counted as there is no clear data disaggregation for PWDs,” Nyakanyanga said.

The worst affected are the hearing and speech impaired due to the language barrier, and the visually-impaired, as a result of limited information particularly in accessible formats.

During voluntary counselling and testing, the disabled often faced lack of confidentiality due to the presence of an interpreter, Nyakanyanga said.

Sally Nyakanyanga 2 (left)

Stigma and discrimination, she said, and high levels of poverty, especially in the rural areas, were also the major barriers to access to treatment and care.

“There is need to raise awareness to educate communities and health personnel on how to deal with PWDs,” she said.

Through the Global Fund, DHAT has been training health personnel on disability management, advocating for an accessible health environment that fosters dignity and respect for PWDs.

Funding for the sector has also remained low and facilities like the disability grant are not only inadequate, but many PWDs are not aware of it.

“As the economic situation continues to worsen, government is unable to pay PWDs and many of them are going back empty-handed,” Nyakanyanga said.

DHAT is proposing that government come up with a disability levy to go towards grant provision and enable the Ministry of Labour and Social Services to undertake its activities.

Zimbabwe will this month hold the International Conference on Aids and STIs in Africa (ICASA).

“It will provide a platform for persons with disabilities to interact with the local and international community and share information on the other inter-relationships between HIV and Aids and disability, and good practices regarding response to HIV and Aids prevalence in the country, regional and continental.”


  1. She is right. Disability of other organs does not necessarily mean disability of sexual organs. Some of them can be very able! Prevention efforts should seriously consider the plight of visibly disabled persons. After all, we are disabled in one way or the other, or we can be disabled any time. Let’s us give PWDs an ear.

  2. For sure! Disability rights have been here way before women’s rights but the disabled are still lagging behind. It seems women are more listened to than the disabled. Therefore, I propose that disabled people rearrange themselves, come up with a strategy which must bring an end to all this segregation and put them in the sportlight for each and every development in our communities. Sex itself is a human right and prevention from sexually transmitted infection is a priority for all which must include the disabled. I challenge NewsDay to publish more news about the disabled so that their achievements may demystify disability in our societies.

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