Challenges to providing HIV prevention education to youth with disabilities in South Africa

Rohleder P, Swartz L, Schneider M, Eide AH.  Department of Psychology, Anglia Ruskin University, Cambridge, United Kingdom.  Disabil Rehabil. 2012;34(8):619-24. doi: 10.3109/09638288.2011.613512. Epub 2011 Nov 16.

PURPOSE: In South Africa, little is known how HIV prevention education is implemented in schools for learners with disabilities. This article reports on findings from a study exploring the extent to which HIV education is reached to people with disabilities in South Africa, and the challenges faced by educators providing HIV prevention education to learners with disabilities.

METHOD: A survey questionnaire completed by 34 schools for learners with special education needs in the Western Cape province of South Africa. Additional complimentary data were collected through interviews with a total of 21 members of staff at schools for learners with disabilities.

RESULTS: Respondents recognise the importance of providing HIV prevention education for people with disabilities. Staff reports some challenges in providing HIV prevention education: barriers to communication; discomfort about issues of sexuality and disability; disagreements among staff about what is appropriate content for sexual health education; and fears of promoting sexual activity.

CONCLUSIONS: There is a need for HIV prevention education to be specifically customized to the needs of the specific population. A general programme, which is included as part of a general curriculum and generally tailored to “mainstream” schools, would need to be adapted according to specific needs and disabling barriers faced.