Disabled should claim rights in UN convention

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NAIROBI, 12 November 2009 (PlusNews) - The United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) should be used as a tool to improve access to HIV services for disabled people, who are often marginalized in national HIV policies, says a new report.

"PWDs experience all the risk factors associated with HIV, and are often at increased risk because of poverty, severely limited access to education and health care, lack of information and resources to facilitate 'safer sex', lack of legal protection, increased risk of violence and rape, vulnerability to substance abuse, and stigma," the authors noted in HIV/AIDS and Disability: Final Report of the 4th International Policy Dialogue.

HIV/AIDS was implicitly included in the CRPD under article 25a, where "State Parties shall provide PWDs with the same range, quality and standard of free, affordable health care and programmes as provided to other persons, including in the area of sexual and reproductive health and population-based public health programmes," the authors noted.

"There is usually little national data on the numbers of people with disabilities affected and infected with HIV, and communications campaigns around HIV are not designed with PWDs in mind," said Phitalis Were, of Leonard Cheshire International, a global organisation working with the disabled.

"Condoms have expiry dates that blind people cannot read, so how are they to know that a condom is past its sell-by date?" Were also noted that disabled people could not claim their right to health services unless they were educated about these rights.

The CRPD came into force in 2008, and has 143 signatories and 71 parties. Were said that if the CRPD was to be effective, governments needed to act on the commitments they made by ratifying it.

"Many of our laws are so outmoded and offensive to PWDs, and must be changed urgently; in Kenya, for instance, certain sections of statutory law still refer to people with mental disabilities as imbeciles and idiots."

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