HIV counselling not available for the disabled

Time of article published Oct 11, 2011

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Nompumelelo Magwaza

The organisation Disabled People of South Africa has asked the government to make use of its skills to help counsel deaf and blind people living with HIV/Aids.

The plea was made by Disabled People of South Africa chairman Muzi Nkosi during a media briefing at the Disabled People’s International 8th World Assembly, in the presence of the Women, Children and People with Disabilities Minister Lulu Xingwana.

The conference, which started yesterday and is expected to end on Thursday is being held at the Inkosi Albert Luthuli Convention Centre in Durban. More than 600 delegates are attending from Africa, Asia, the US and the Middle East.

Nkosi said government hospitals did not have staff trained to counsel deaf and blind patients who came for HIV testing.

“These are vulnerable people who cannot get support because of their disabilities and they are devastated when they are told they are HIV positive, it becomes worse when there is no one to counsel them.

“What we are simply asking is for the government to use the people we have who are qualified to counsel (those with) life-threatening diseases,” he said.

“We are available and they can use us because a lot of work still needs to be done to help disabled people in government hospitals.”

Nkosi said it was better for any disabled person to be advised by another disabled person because the two would be coming from the “same world”.

In response, Xingwana said her department was painfully aware of the problem.

“The department is liaising with the Health and Justice Department on such developments.”

Sign language and Braille were also important in the justice system so that laws and other important issues could be explained, she said.

Addressing the conference, Xingwana said the government had to double the number of employable disabled people in order to reach the required 2 percent employment equity.

“We are currently at 0.9 percent which means that we need to intensify our efforts.”

Nkosi said the government had good policies and plans, but failed to implement them.

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