IN a move that set to improve access to health services for people living with albinism, the Population Services International Zimbabwe (PSI) has partnered Global Aid Mission in setting up a clinic which offers comprehensive Sexual Reproductive Health (SRH) services under one roof.
By Michael Gwarisa
The move follows indications that most people living with the albinism condition and other disabilities shun seeking SRH services such as HIV testing, HIV treatment and care, ST screening, among others due to fear of stigma and discrimination in societies and health institutions.
Officiating at the International Day of Albinism day celebrations, Dr Albert Mulingwa from the Ministry of Health and Child Care (MoHCC) said there were numerous misconceptions surrounding people living with albinism especially when it comes to issues of their sexual and reproductive health.
“Albinism is a form of disability and people with albinism are sometimes stigmatised by society as well, and this prevents them from seeking health services. This special population is often overlooked when it comes to health programs and service delivery with the regular channels.
“A common perception in some segments of society is that people with disabilities are sexually inactive and not at risk of HIV infection and therefore not in need of HIV related information, prevention and services,” said Dr Mulingwa.
He added that people with disabilities have low level of knowledge and low risk perception towards HIV and are themselves in need of information and services to plan their families and prevent unintended pregnancies.
“Women and girls are particularly vulnerable to sexual abuse leading to unintended pregnancies and HIV. There are myths for example, that if one sleeps with a person with albinism, they can get rid of HIV infection, and myths like these exacerbate the situation.
“Zimbabwe has among many nations committed to the UN 90-90-90 targets which state that by 2020, 90 percent of all people with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.”
In an interview on the side-lines of the commemorations, PSI director Social Franchising, Stephano Gudukeya said they were yet to compile specific HIV related data regards people living with albinism but concurred with Dr Mulingwa on the issue of high stigma as the biggest barrier to accessing SRH services among people with albinism and said they were at high risk of infection.
“PSI provides SRH services including HIV prevention treatment and care services. From what we see, generally in the health sector people living with albinism and people living disabilities in general are disadvantaged as they don’t always come and receive services sometimes. It is because of stigma that they face when they go to receive services and some times it is just lack of awareness.
“PSI working with partners like Global Aid mission are trying to reach to people living with albinism for them to have access to these services. We are also getting support from our funding partners like Swedish international development agency (SIDA) and also PEPFAR,” said Gudukeya.
He added that Global Aid will be running a clinic at Number 53 Central Avenue and PSI will be coming through to provide SRH services to people living with albinism.
Meanwhile, in Zimbabwe, platinum mining giant, Zimplats has committed funds towards the purchase of creams and lotions for people living with albinism in a bid to boost their livelihoods and wellbeing in the society.