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Open Access Research article

Fostering disability-inclusive HIV/AIDS programs in northeast India: a participatory study

Martha Morrow1*, MC Arunkumar2, Emma Pearce3 and Heather E Dawson1

Author Affiliations

1 Nossal Institute of Global Health, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Vic 3010, Australia

2 Department of Anthropology, Manipur University, Imphal, Manipur, India

3 School of Population Health, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Vic 3010, Australia

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BMC Public Health 2007, 7:125  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-125

Published: 26 June 2007

Abstract

Background

Manipur and Nagaland in northeast India are among the Indian states with the highest prevalence of HIV. Most prevention and care programs focus on identified "high risk" groups, but recent data suggest the epidemic is increasing among the general population, primarily through heterosexual sex. People with disability (PWD) in India are more likely than the general population to be illiterate, unemployed and impoverished, but little is known of their HIV risk.

Methods

This project aimed to enable HIV programs in Manipur and Nagaland to be more disability-inclusive. The objectives were to: explore HIV risk and risk perception in relation to PWD among HIV and disability programmers, and PWD themselves; identify HIV-related education and service needs and preferences of PWD; and utilise findings and stakeholder consultation to draft practical guidelines for inclusion of disability into HIV programming. Data were collected through a survey and several qualitative tools.

Results

The findings revealed that participants believe PWD in these states are potentially vulnerable to HIV transmission due to social exclusion and poverty, lack of knowledge, gender norms and obstacles to accessing HIV programs. Neither HIV nor disability organisations currently address the risks, needs and preferences of PWD.

Conclusion

The Guidelines produced in the project and disseminated to stakeholders emphasise opportunities for taking action with minimal cost and resources, such as using the networks and expertise of both HIV and disability sectors, producing HIV material in a variety of formats, and promoting accessibility to mainstream HIV education and services. The human rights obligations and public health benefits of modifying national and state policies and programs to assist this highly disadvantaged population are also highlighted.