Swaziland: HIV/AIDS Education -- Disabled Persons With HIV/AIDS Face Unequal Access to Health Information

In a recent report, A.K. Yousafzai of University College London and colleagues found that disabled persons with HIV/AIDS faced difficulties in accessing health information. This qualitative study employed focus group discussions among disabled and non-disabled young adults in Swaziland to find whether they perceived HIV/AIDS similarly.

Four focus groups comprising 56 non-disabled adults ages 16-29, and four groups comprising 32 adults ages 18-32 with either a physical or hearing disability, discussed HIV/AIDS knowledge, personal risk and experiences of health-seeking practices.

The study found non-disabled participants had good awareness of HIV/AIDS in rural and urban areas and obtained their information from various sources. However, disabled participants obtained their information from a more limited array of sources, lacked HIV/AIDS awareness, and were misinformed about transmission modes, the authors wrote.

"Women with disabilities described experiences of sexual exploitation and abuse," which they perceived as "higher among disabled women than their non-disabled peers," researchers said. The women believed this stemmed from non-disabled men's perception that disabled women are HIV-negative. The authors suggested further research would enable HIV/AIDS programs to address the specific needs of disabled persons.

The full report, "Knowledge, Personal Risk and Experiences of HIV/AIDS Among People with Disabilities in Swaziland," was published in the International Journal of Rehabilitation (2004;27(3):247-251).