Connecting local responses around the world
It’s been almost two (02) years, since January of 2008, that Handicap International is implementing the project of “Empowerment of People with Disabilities and Strategic Partnership to Reduce Their Vulnerability to HIV and AIDS”. The project is basically focused on improving their capacities to advocate for more inclusive society (AIDS response related, in this particular case) that respect their rights to benefit from services that are generated as well as to consider their inputs valid to copping with the pandemic.
Let us recall that people with disabilities, like in many societal life aspects, have been excluded both form participation (as active persons) and benefiting (as passive receptors) from HIV and AIDS services and information due to their conditions, but also (and thus greatly) from the judgments and attitudes that society has formulated around them. Thus, by no means HIV and AIDS services and information could reach People with Disabilities being totally inaccessible. Just as an example, how could a deaf person, who never had access to at list primary education, benefit from a training of HIV and AIDS activists for prevention when there is no translation of speeches, debates and documents into sings or gests? Furthermore, how can this deaf person understand information, or access to counseling and testing by that activist who benefited from that same training? The answer is so obvious and by itself clarifies the great level of vulnerability of people with disabilities getting infected with HIV; soon develop AIDS; and then the very and most unfortunate end.
Handicap International, in partnership with the Constellation for AIDS Competence (now Community Development Competence) has been stimulating people with disabilities to face the challenges of AIDS by a different perspective rather than a passive – whereby HIV and AIDS is an epidemic that brings its own cycle (infection – illness – death) and nothing can be done with that. People with disabilities (implementing the ACP) have been provided with technical capacities and resources to shake decision makers to consider them within the group to consult and as well to benefit with their actions. That is concretely shown by the Mozambique National Strategic Plan for HIV and AIDS (PENIII for 2010 to 2014) – that has considered inputs from organizations of people with disabilities and for the very first time it has considered this group as part of priority key beneficiaries. On the other hand, today organizations of people with disabilities have activists working at grassroots level to promote prevention, care and support of their peers and other members of communities where they are living. The AIDS Competence experience exchanging fair that Handicap International organized in Maputo (in March 2010), putting together more than 60 people from organizations of people with disabilities and AIDS actors, with facilitation from National ACP team supported by Constellation Coaches, including government decision makers had showen very interesting stories of change that have been generated at grassroots level. There disabled people activists are making their efforts and are reaching considerable results - but we are very limited to evaluate their success.
Surely, what could be missing now is to raise more evidences on impact of AIDS on people with disabilities to convince on need of changing in programs implemented by AIDS actors at grassroots and provide resources to develop their technical capacities to adapt their actions to benefit people with disabilities as well.