Their reluctance to speak publicly about the AIDS epidemic for fear of stigmatization has hampered their ability to fight the stigma.
While being disabled can be a frustrating experience, the burden of being HIV positive is adding to the already isolated lifestyles of many disabled persons in Uganda.
Disabled persons are quietly devastated by HIV/Aids, despite the advances Uganda has achieved in treatment and prevention. Their reluctance to speak publicly about the AIDS epidemic for fear of stigmatization has hampered their ability to fight the stigma.
Santa Otto, a disabled person who is HIV positive says she never wanted to tell anyone about her status. She said she feared to be asked how she acquired the HIV virus.
Otoo says the silence about the HIV status of disabled persons stems from societal misconceptions about the sexuality of disabled persons. Otoo says that many people believe that disabled persons are sexually active and are free from infection.
Patricia Joyce Okwir, the Assistant Project coordinator National Union of Disabled Persons in Uganda Gulu branch said that many people view HIV/ Aids infection among PWDs as a curse from God.
Ms Okwir says NUDIPU has launched an awareness campaign intended to demystify the views that people with disabilities are not sexually active and are free from infection.
Peter Ogenga Abwola, Programs Coordinator of Children of world Foundation, in Kitgum said many disabled people are subject to what is known as the “Triple Burden” of disability, poverty and HIV and AIDS.
Ogenga said the situation has been aggravated by lack of access to service provision, long distance, lack of nutrition, lack of awareness of the disease, and the stigma that comes with being disabled.
He said plans are underway to form a peer groups to empower disabled person and create awareness about the “forgotten tribe” Persons with Disabilities and HIV and AIDS in Kitgum.
Although there are no figures on HIV/Aids prevalence rates among PWDs in Uganda, NUDIPU said anecdotal evidence suggests that this group are increasingly likely to be sexually exploited, particularly women, making them a high risk group for infection.
PWDs also suffer stigma and marginalization when it comes to accessing medical services and education about the virus.
uganda society for disabled children