Disabilities and HIV in Zambia, faith-based opportunities to provide bridges to services, and Malawi steps up . . . We’re reading reports on gaps and how to fill them

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NewWWR“We Are Also Dying of AIDS” – This report from Human Rights Watch on Barriers to HIV Services and Treatment for Persons with Disabilities in Zambia is dedicated to the late Winstone Zulu, the Zambian activist  who pushed for HIV and TB responses to reach people marginalized by poverty, cultural bias, discriminatory laws, and institutionalized neglect. Zulu had been barred from school as a young child after one of his legs was left weakened by polio, but it wasn’t until the last decade of his life that he began to consider the role that disability played in his risks, perception of risks, and access to services for HIV. In 2011, Zulu’s piece: I Had Polio. I Also Have Sex appeared in The New York Times, telling how assumptions about people with disabilities have led to their exclusion from HIV prevention, care and treatment efforts, further heightening their risks. Zulu died from an AIDS-related illness a few months later at the age of 47. This report examines the present state of HIV risk and response for people with disabilities, including, still, limited access to education, as well as poverty, HRWWeAreAlsoDyingofAIDSunemployment, and exposure to violence. Still, materials for information on HIV remains out of reach, with health education classes not offered to students in “special education,” or in formats accessible to people with sight or hearing disabilities. Assumptions, barriers of communication, as well as physical barriers continue to keep HIV testing and counseling from being routinely offered, and also stand in the way of adherence monitoring for HIV-infected people with disabilities fortunate enough to be diagnosed and to get antiretroviral treatment. The report notes these gaps and more. It follows with a wide range of recommendations for donors, international agencies and government ministries, to fill those gaps, including that the government ensure access to education, and that agencies set post 2015 indicators for success in meeting HIV needs of people with disabilities. It also highlights good practices in Zambia and South Africa.

In Malawi, trying to reach deaf and blind community with HIV messaging – Malawi has a history of being ahead of the curve in HIV responses, and this article in the Global Fund Observer gives the latest example, with the description of a collaboration between HIV activists and people  with disabilities to improve access to HIV prevention messages for people with hearing or sight disablities. Proposed by an organization that is a sub-recipient from the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the program would target five districts with condom distribution, information and testing campaigns specifically tailored to blind and deaf individuals, and train HIV testing counselors in sign language.

It’s official: No more Malawi arrests under anti-gay laws – And this post from the 76 Crimes blog brings more news of progress in Malawi that, aside from improving its human rights profile, will enable more effective HIV responses.

valuingeveryhumanlifeValuing Every Human Life – This report from Emory Rollins School of Public Health Interfaith Health Program examines How Faith-based Organizations Can Support Key Populations with HIV Prevention, Treatment, and Support Services, presenting information on the epidemiology, needs, challenges, and strategies to reach people involved in sex work, people who inject drugs, and men who have sex with men. It looks at religious issues that both hinder and demand responses to people with little access to life-saving services. it provides background on shifts in religious responses, links to PEPFAR’s guidances for reaching marginalized populations, and examples of responsive faith-based organizations.

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