CSOs Raise Awareness On HIV & Disabilities At Agric Show

A consortium of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) representing people living with disabilities is riding on the 109th edition of the Zimbabwe Agricultural Show (ZAS) to raise awareness on sexual reproductive health (SRH) issues affecting people with disabilities (PWDs) in Zimbabwe.

By Michael Gwarisa

The consortium which consists of Deaf Zimbabwe Trust (DZT), Mashambanzou Care Trust (MCT), Disability, HIV & AIDS Trust (DHAT) with support from the Zimbabwe Aids Network (ZAN) has this week been conducting stand to stand visits on various exhibitions stands educating exhibitors on SRH concerns faced by people living with disabilities.

In an interview with HealthTimes on the side-lines of the show, Mashambanzou project officer HIV, Tinashe Zimondi said it was critical to target every population if the country is to win the battle against HIV and AIDS.

We as Mashambanzou Care Trust together with the ZAN and the National Aids Council (NAC) have been trying to alleviate HIV issues in Zimbabwe. We want to ensure that the burden that country has had in terms of HIV and AIDS is reduced.

“What we noted is that it is very important to include everyone in the fight against HIV and that includes person with disabilities. So what we are exhibiting here at the Harare Agricultural Show (HAS) 2019 is just material to ensure that people are taught how to deal with disability in as far as their health is concerned,” said Zimondi.

He added that they were showcasing materials and literature which can be used as tools to communicate with people of various disabilities.

“We are also teaching people basic sign language so that even when they interact or they come across deaf people, they can communicate with them.

“Since beginning of the week, we were moving stand by stand so that people exhibiting at the agricultural show can communicate with deaf people without them feeling offended or belittled by the people.”

The consortium has over the past few months been conducting community awareness campaigns on SRHR and HIV with the aim of equipping communities with relevant knowledge and skills on how to communicate and address concerns of people living with disabilities.

“It is very important that whenever we talk about rights, we do not live anyone behind. You find that there are thing that because of our culture and beliefs, we assume that people living with disabilities are asexual.

“You find that a person with a disability can fall pregnant and when the relatives and parents are conversing with them, they tell them that why were you even doing it. They are such assumptions that sill show that people are behind in terms of information. People with disabilities also have feeling and it’s important that they are equipped with the right information,” said Zimondi.

Meanwhile, DHAT Programs Officer Tafadzwa Maseva said the health sector is not yet equipped enough to deal with persons with disabilities and it is slowing down progress in terms of realising some set health targets.

Members of the consortium manning the stand at the 109th edition of the agric show

“Our mandate was to enhance the health of person with disabilities including those living HIV in the Zimbabwe. However, the challenge we have noted is that there is no mechanism that captures disability at the point of entry hence it becomes difficult for any organisation to plan or to trace persons with disabilities in mind.

“It is also difficult for medical practitioners to communicate o to deal with persons with disabilities due to lack of inadequate skills hence in some areas and case studies that we have conducted, we have realised that when a person with say a mental illness comes to a hospital, the medical practitioners cannot handle that person and communities shun that person,” said Maseva.

He added that they have identified a number of gaps which they believe also requires government intervention to ensure planning and care for persons with disabilities is prioritised right at the point of entry.

We need to come up with mechanisms to ensure issues of disabilities are catered for right at the point of entry. We can also have the issues of sign language, the issues of braille being introduced at the earlier stages, even at basic education level stage.

“As you know, in hospitals there are no sign language interpreters and it becomes a challenge for a person with disabilities to communicate. Even the rest rooms in rural areas are not disability friendly. We need total reforms so that persons with disabilities can be included.”








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