Knowledge, personal risk and experiences of HIV/AIDS among people with disabilities in Swaziland.

Although there has been research focused on the disabling consequences of HIV/AIDS, there has been very little documented information about HIV/AIDS for individuals with disability prior to infection. There is evidence to suggest that people with disabilities face inequalities in accessing health information and services. The aim of this study was to explore whether disabled and non-disabled young adults in Swaziland perceive HIV/AIDS similarly. A qualitative study using focus-group discussions was conducted. Four focus groups were conducted with a total of 56 non-disabled adults (aged 16-29 years) and four focus groups were conducted with a total of 32 adults with either a physical or hearing disability (aged 18-32 years). The focus-group schedule explored knowledge about HIV/AIDS, personal risk and experiences of health-seeking practices. Information and awareness about HIV/AIDS was good in both rural and urban areas among the non-disabled participants, who obtained their information from a wide range of sources. In contrast, participants with disability, who obtained information about HIV/AIDS from a limited range of sources, lacked knowledge about HIV/AIDS and were misinformed about modes of transmission. Women with disabilities described experiences of sexual exploitation and abuse, which was perceived to be higher among disabled women than their non-disabled peers; they felt this was because disabled women were perceived to be ‘free’ from the HIV virus by non-disabled men. Further research is necessary to enable HIV/AIDS programmes to address the specific needs of people with disabilities.