When there is Even a Small Effort Dedicated to People with Disabilities their Abilities to Cope with HIV and AIDS Become Evident

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.

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Comment by murarirao B jagatap on May 13, 2010 at 9:09am
Thanks Joao Amaldo for sharing this experience, it is important to involve, make them understand and provide opportunities to respond to the issues, for all kinds of people in poor resource settign, people at risk,vulnrable people and people with disability as well, I think people with disability are most at risk to get HIV infedction but Indian HIV program are frmed around womn in sex work and sexuality minority people and very few with marginalsied communities.it is important to make those who makes dicision at national and international and those who brain behand decions are needs to sensitised and make them understand the people with disabillities are most at risk by sharing our experiences and stories of PLHIV among PLD. useally we assume people are most sensitised to disabliity but reality may be different, recently we organised a knowledge fair on " SPANDANE" the volunterism for volunteers from the field of HIV, disability and mental health, near Bangalore in an institution, very dedicated , very committed people, they provided good food and the enivironmetn is so calm and quite, and using wheel chairs they made ramps to access care center but for the training people with disability are unable to access dining place and toilets. Mr. Prasad who uses wheel chair has shared his expereience to explained that "Even after 20 years, 1995 Disability act has come ito force still very sensitive people are insensitive" from this I lernt that and raised question within me we would have orgnised it better and in future we can and it helps institution personnels also
Would love to hear a story of change

thanks and regards

Comment by Ricardo Walters on May 12, 2010 at 10:16pm
Hey Joao,

The experience with ACP coming out of Mozambique continues to be impressive, particularly because it is being led so capably by local community activists who are, themselves, living with disabilities. I love the image from our first visit of disabled people - Franca, Teresa, Garrido, Miguel - all supporting each other to go on a SALT visit, and the way that one home visit impacted that neighbourhood.

I think we need to be challenged by the issue you raise in your blog. We have made good progress to stimulate implementation of AIDS Competence principles at a local level. But, there is still work to be done on gathering and analysing good solid evidence, participatory measurement of change, and advocacy at the policy-level (by local people themselves).

I agree with Gaston's thougths that this would be an interesting and very significant next step in Mozambique.

Comment by Virgilio Suande on May 12, 2010 at 2:28pm
How cool is your blog Irmao

There is a very strong component in here you have mentioned wicth is the extra eyer that NGOS, Govenments and individuals have realized during the 2 years you have mentioned above that show and stimulate sthength of people that lead to response rather than gapes.
Thanks Joao for spiring us.

Virgilio Suande
Comment by Gaston on May 11, 2010 at 9:20am
Thanks Joao for sharing this. You make the connection between disability and HIV very clear with a practical example and the human element.

Your mention on the evidence of impact on AIDS on people with disabilities is spot-on. I propose that in the continuation of the work in Mozambique we can perhaps include a prospective cost-effectiveness and impact study if possible. We would then qualify outcomes not in the traditional way, focused on only uptake of services and standard indicators on HIV, but in terms of the true capabilities of these people and communities. It deals with the freedom of choice as Amartya Sen puts it. Community Life Competence is a practical way of improving Sen's perception of development.

Such an evaluation truly would cover the benefits and impact of the approach for these groups. Let's discuss how to integrate this in the proposal. HDCA_Briefing_Concepts.pdf

Comment by Joao Arnaldo Vembane on May 7, 2010 at 2:29pm
Hi Rituu,

Thanks for your comment. Indeed, this article comes in same line with Ricardo report on Mozambique activities. So stories of change are many and can be found in the report from Ricardo.

Thanks for your permanent contribution to the community.

Take care
Comment by Rituu B. Nanda on May 7, 2010 at 11:59am
Dear Joao,

Thanks for this powerful blog. Negative social stereotypes can keep differently abled out of the social mainstream. However, as your sharing beautifully brings out that inclusion and recognition of strengths can lead to remarkable results.

Would love to hear a story of change.




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