With the provocative statement by UNAIDS representative and their report, Youth With Disabilities from allover the world, deemed it necessary to cause a Press Conference to publish the Washington D.C. Declaration Plus which addressed the 10 key pointer areas for meaningful inclusion of PWDs in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support programs and service provision at all levels. Read more about the statement here…

This emerged as a theme of the Press Conference that YWDs deemed necessary to hold at the Washington Convention Center in DC. This was after some presenters in some sessions at the 2012 AIDS Conference seemed to be ignorant of how to include disability in HIV/AIDS Programs.

At one of the first sessions, we had one of the top most ranking officials from UNAIDS address the vulnerability of More At Risk Populations (MARPs) to HIV/AIDS. In her presentation she did not at any single moment mention PWDs as a MARP. We all wondered! Why? So at the end of her presentation, one of the participant from the African Youth With Disabilities Network (AYWDN) asked “Are People With Disabilities (PWDs) considered a MARP and if not why?” To our dismay, the UNAIDS officer ignorantly responded and said No. She therefore requested other panelists to help clarify under where or how PWDs would be categorized. None of the Panelists responded to her request. This was quite ashaming and provocative as to why UNAIDS would think PWDs are not a MARP. It implied inadequate knowledge about HIV/AIDS issues affecting PWDs especially YWDs to access prevention, treatment, care and support services hence exclusion.

This was common even in other sessions as many panelists tend to avoid responding to questions raised concerning disability inclusion. This calls for the need to consult PWDs on issues that affect them. Experts on disability should be consulted and even be included on these panels during such conferences since disability is a cross cutting issue.

During the Disability and HIV Leadership Forum, a participant informed the house about the absence of disability being reported about in the UNAIDS report. He said

“I went through the UNAIDS report keenly but to my surprise, the report did not have anything reported on disability”.

This was an indicator that PWDs are excluded and not benefiting from programs which address HIV/AIDS prevention, care, support and treatment.

15% of the world’s population are PWDs which is equal to 1 billion people. They need these services since they are MARPs who are vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.

At the Disability and HIV Leadership Forum, Youth With Disabilities spoke out about the stereotypes they encounter in their countries. One of the AYWDN member from Uganda said “People think we are asexual, don’t engage into sexual acts and therefore do not need sexual education. They think virgin girls with disability are a cure to HIV/AIDS hence directly targeted by men and are raped” This indicates that Persons with Disabilities are vulnerable to HIV/AIDS.

With the provocative statement by UNAIDS representative and their report, Youth With Disabilities from allover the world, deemed it necessary to cause a Press Conference to publish the Washington D.C. Declaration Plus which addressed the 10 key pointer areas for meaningful inclusion of PWDs in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support programs and service provision at all levels.

It was a great achievement to have Youth with Disabilities – themselves develop this Washington D.C. Declaration Plus addressing how to meaningfully include and ensure participation of Persons With of Disabilities. And eventually got this declaration published to all stakeholders at the press conference. Check out for details about the declaration here:  http://www.aidsfreeworld.org/Our-Issues/Disability/Disability-and-HIV-Leadership-Forum.aspx

Yes! Together we can make a difference.

Written by Barbara Nandutu

Barbara Nandutu F (AIDS 2012 Participant) National Chairperson Youth With Disabilities (NUDIPU-Youth) Gender Representative - African Youth With Disabilities Network (AYWDN)