No national data on HIV/AIDS among differently-abled, reveals RTI
The Capital has nine antiretroviral treatment centres, but none of them has information on the alternate format for blind or sign language interpreters for deaf people, who are living with HIV.
This is as per a Right to Information reply obtained by disability rights activist Satendra Singh from University College of Medical Sciences and GTB Hospital, Delhi.
Stating that persons with disabilities are the missing voices in India’s national AIDS response, the physician noted that in the first report of its kind, UNAIDS Gap report 2014 had identified 12 populations at higher risk of HIV (of which people with physical disability is one) and emphasised covering these to close the gap.
This Gap report estimates that India has the third largest number of people living with HIV in the world and accounts for about 4 out of 10 people living with HIV in the region.
“The National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) in its response to an RTI had noted that they do not have any national data on HIV/AIDS prevalence among people with disabilities,’’ said Dr. Singh.
He added that the NACO annual report of 2013-14 too does not feature a single word with ‘disability’ or ‘persons with disabilities’. Disability is also not mentioned in the HIV/AIDS (Prevention & Control) Bill 2014 as introduced in the Rajya Sabha.
“The Delhi State AIDS Control Society (DSACS) has accepted the lacunae and responded stating that suggestions have been conveyed to NACO to include people with disabilities living with HIV in national response, convert all info on sexual and reproductive services AIDS/HIV in accessible format, prevalence among disabled to be included in next survey, disability questions to be used in existing survey,” said Dr. Singh.
“We have also suggested that State Commissioner of Disabilities be part of State AIDS Control & Prevention Societies. Also, the Medical Council of India has written to include disability studies to be part of the MBBS curriculum and Delhi Medical Council to issue instructions to Hospitals and Clinics to be disabled friendly,” he added.
People living with disability (PWD) are world’s largest minority and hence part of every social group included as vulnerable and risk group in UNAIDS Gap report.
“There is also low awareness of HIV among PWDs. The 2007 survey done in rural areas of India revealed the fact that one-fifth of people interviewed had never heard of HIV and is a cause for great concern. People with mental or developmental disabilities generally lack the ability to develop the social skills to recognise predatory behaviour and avoid vulnerable situation. The situation is same for wheelchair users isolated in homes and restricted from communicating with society,” noted Dr. Singh.