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 Saturday 11 October 2008
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UGANDA: Disabled in the north missing out on HIV services

Photo: Sven Torfinn/IRIN
Many disabled people in northern Uganda were injured in the war
GULU, 3 October 2008 (PlusNews) - Disabled people in northern Uganda - many of whom were injured in the long conflict between the government and the rebel Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) - are calling on the government to provide a more targeted HIV response.

Although there have been no rebel attacks in the region for over two years, the LRA planted landmines across the region and local people continue to find unexploded ordnance.

"HIV awareness is being done, but people with disability are being left out," Simon Ongom, chairman of the Gulu District Disabled Persons Union, told IRIN/PlusNews.

According to a national population and housing census, there are 23,870 disabled people in the northern districts of Gulu and Amuru, mostly casualties of the war.

"They are more vulnerable because of their physical weakness; they are very poor and easily taken advantage of, and end up being infected. People with disabilities are easy to rape - one knock is enough to overpower a disabled person and have sex," he said.

John Luwaa, the Gulu District HIV focal point, noted that "Because of the low awareness among the disabled, those who are HIV-positive do not realise the importance of going for treatment. Very few turn up to health centres to treat HIV-related illness."

Ongom said many disabled people in the north were illiterate and couldn't benefit from HIV messages on billboards or in the leaflets in health centres, and there were also no testing facilities catering to the visually challenged and the hearing-impaired.

"It is important to carefully involve people with disabilities in the planning processes for HIV/AIDS programmes if they are to fully benefit," said Francis Kinubi, chair of the National Union of Disabled Persons of Uganda (NUDIPU).

The NUDIPU recently started a three-year pilot programme to raise awareness of the pandemic in three districts, including Gulu, where HIV prevalence is eight percent, one of the highest in the country.

Although the HIV prevalence among people with disabilities is unknown, the NUDIPU said anecdotal evidence indicated that they were being subjected to a rising level of sexual exploitation, putting them at risk of contracting the virus.


Theme(s): (IRIN) HIV/AIDS (PlusNews)


[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
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