People with disabilities are at greater risk of HIV/AIDS

1 December 2010

Professor Nora Groce of UCL’s Leonard Cheshire Disability and Inclusive Development Centre describes the increased risk of HIV/AIDS faced by people with disabilities, to mark World Disability Day.


“UCL’s Leonard Cheshire Centre on Disability and Inclusive Development in the Research Department of Epidemiology and Public Health is one of the few research centres anywhere in the world that concentrates on the inclusion of persons with disabilities in international development and global health efforts.

AIDS disability logo

I am the Chair of the centre, and as part of its work, I will be speaking at two major events to mark the upcoming United Nations’ International Day of Persons with Disabilities: the first at the United Nations (UN) in New York on 2 December and the second at the US State Department in Washington DC on 3 December.

I have been part of a group of researchers and disability advocates working on the increased risk of HIV/AIDS faced by people with disabilities in both developed and developing countries. This risk exists because people with disabilities often receive little AIDS information, services or resources to allow them to know how to protect themselves, and have less access to care and support should they become infected.

Working with UNAIDS (the joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS), I will be part of a panel of speakers on 2 December, co-sponsored by UNAIDS and the UN’s Department of Social and Economic Affairs. The panel is intended to bridge events on World AIDS Day on 1 December and World Disability Day on 3 December, to call attention to the issue of disability and AIDS. Discussion of disability and AIDS will be the focus of the panel at the US State Department in Washington the following day as well.

The World AIDS Day theme for 2010 – Universal Access and Human Rights – provides a unique platform from which to call upon the global AIDS community to review and revise programmes and policies to make sure persons with disabilities are included in all AIDS outreach efforts.

According to the UN, 650 million people – 10% of the world’s population – live with a physical, sensory (blindness, deafness), intellectual or mental health disability and often are among the poorest and most marginalised of all the world’s citizens.

The new UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (2008) guarantees full and equal access to all international development and global health efforts. For millions of persons with disabilities in both the developed and developing world, inclusion in AIDS efforts is an important component of the new rights guaranteed in the UN Convention.”

Image: The universal sign for disability with the AIDS ribbon, designed by Professor Groce with a graduate student, has become the figure used globally for disability and AIDS work and campaigns


UCL context

UCL’s Leonard Cheshire Disability and Inclusive Development Centre is dedicated to generating a body of research about disability issues that helps to improve the lives of people with disabilities, and those of their families and their communities, around the world.

The centre aims to:

  • undertake field research studies in participation with Leonard Cheshire Disability programmes implemented globally, partners of the Global Alliance, and many other research partners
  • provide expertise for policy makers and other stakeholders (non-governmental organisations, UN agencies, other donor agencies) primarily in developing countries. This includes the areas of legislation, inclusion, empowerment and mainstreaming within existing policies.
  • participate in academic networks, and to share research experience and knowledge through field surveys, publications and teaching about disabled people, vulnerable groups and international development, and through supervision of student and fellow research.

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