Best Practices Regarding HIV and AIDS for People With Disabilities Handbook

In spite of the remarkable increase of global awareness on HIV, there is still a huge amount of work to do to stop the AIDS epidemic. Even though the spread of the epidemic may have stabilised in 2008 (2008 Report on the global AIDS epidemic, UNAIDS), it has done so at a very high level of HIV infections. Therefore, there is urgent need for more action to move towards the 2010 UN target to achieve Universal Access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

According to the World Health Organization 650 million people or 10% of the world’s population have a disability and four out of every five disabled persons live in developing countries (Disability and Rehabilitation WHO Action Plan 2006-2011). Within every social group - class, caste, ethnicity, gender, religion, and sexual orientation – people with disabilities are represented. In the context of HIV, they are also found within every high risk group such as sex workers and their clients, injecting drug users, men having sex with men, orphans and prisoners. People with disabilities are therefore exposed to the same risk factors for HIV as every non-disabled person. Moreover, due to their often marginalised and vulnerable position in the community (e.g. lack of access to information, low literacy rate and stigma), people with disabilities are at an even higher risk of contracting HIV.

Awareness of disability as a crosscutting issue in development - and subsequently in the HIV response - is increasing. The publication of the UNAIDS, WHO and OHCHR policy brief: DISABILITY and HIV (April 2009) was a first milestone in this respect. Still, awareness of exclusion of people with disabilities from HIV policies and programmes has not yet reached the level that is needed to influence policymakers in the HIV response sufficiently. Moreover, studies on this subject are limited and concrete data on the contribution in numbers of disabled people to the high levels of HIV infections are scarce.

This handbook aims to fill this gap. It aims to further increase awareness of this subject, to share knowledge and to give examples of best practices. It also invites to study the impact of the AIDS epidemic on people with disabilities and it seeks to incite a wider action to achieve universal access for people with disabilities to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support. Without this action the Millennium Development Goal of halting and beginning to reverse the spread of HIV by 2015 will not be met. Expanding the response to the AIDS epidemic by including people with disabilities is nothing less than adhering to the principles and standards of human rights, in particular to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (December 2006).