Effect of HIV on the Disabled Require Greater Attention – UNAIDS


United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (USAIDS) country representative for Jamaica, the Bahamas and Cuba, Miriam Maluwa, has called for greater attention to be placed on HIV and its effect on the disabled community. “The issues of disability and HIV require attention in Jamaica. The disabled community in Jamaica constitute one of the most vulnerable groups,” she stated.
Ms. Maluwa was speaking at the launch of the UNAIDS/Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities programme, which is designed to empower persons with disabilities in the fight against the disease, recently at the Terra Nova Hotel in Kingston.
The initiative entitled: ‘Education and economic empowerment for persons with disabilities responding to HIV and AIDS, will involve two components – public education and income generation. UNAIDS is financially supporting the programme with an initial $2.5 million allocation and the initiative is expected to generate more funds as it evolves. The public education programme component will involve materials that are printed for the HIV/AIDS campaign being transformed into an accessible format for members of the disabled community. Messages about the dangers of HIV/AIDS, will be printed in Braille, on key rings and T-shirts, and distributed among the disabled community. Text messages will be sent to persons, who are deaf.
In the meantime, the economic generation aspect is designed to help persons access business skills and small grants to initiate and manage their own businesses, thus reducing their vulnerability to HIV/AIDS. Discussions are at an advanced stage with the Jamaica National Small Business Loan Facility to implement this aspect of the project as quickly as possible.
Businesses must be economically viable and sustainable and may include selling phone cards, cooking gas, industrial detergent, and raising broiler and layer chickens.The participants will also benefit from training from the Jamaica Business Development Centre.
Lauding the focus on income generation, Mrs. Maluwa said “statistics are showing that approximately 200,000 persons living with a disability in Jamaica have less than one per cent of income.” She argued that empowering them to earn their own income will “reduce possible vulnerability and abuse by those who are taking care of them for lack of economic stability.”
In the meantime, the UNAIDS Representative said that leadership is required at the individual, community, political and national levels in the fight against the disease. “Sustaining this leadership and accelerating action on AIDS should involve everybody, religious leaders, community youth, council leaders, chief executives, trade unions and young people,” Mrs. Maluwa stated.
She noted further that the atmosphere should be created, where people, who are living with HIV, feel comfortable coming out and openly contributing to the society, not withstanding their HIV status.
“It should also involve behaviour responsibility, changes in our sexual practices. It should also involve treating others with dignity and respect irrespective of their HIV status, thus reducing stigma and discrimination,” she stated. In his remarks, State Minister in the Ministry of Labour and Social Security, Andrew Gallimore said “we have to use every available avenue to let the persons who have disabilities know all about this virus, know about how it is spread, and know about how the changes in lifestyle can reduce your risk significantly.”
The World Health Organisation and UNAIDS estimates that there are 33 million people globally living with HIV. This year alone 2.5 million people were infected with HIV and 2.1 million people are dying of AIDS-related diseases.

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