Living in the outskirts of the Tubah subdivision in the Northwest Region of Cameroon are young people with disabilities who have never received education on HIV and Sexual and Reproductive Health (SRH) despite their vulnerability. To address this knowledge gap, the Equality Project of the CBC Health Services in collaboration with the Coordinating Unit of Persons with Disabilities and the Tubah District Hospital facilitated a workshop on August 16, 2023 to educate 40 young people with disabilities and their caregivers most of whom were from the Muslim community.
The education focused on HIV, Sexual and Reproductive, How to prevent Sexually Transmissible Infections (STIs), and what to do in a rape situation. This was followed by free HIV and STI screening and testing for these young people.
According to an assessment carried out at the start of this activity, only 1 in 5 of these young people aged 10 – 24 years had any knowledge on HIV and STI prevention. This revealed the urgent need to scale up the provision of quality integrated and inclusive HIV and sexual and reproductive health services to this vulnerable population.
Speaking with the President of the Association for Persons with Disabilities in Sabga, Mr. Vega Lawrence explained how important it was to get across this education to the young people in his association. Due to their disabilities, they seclude themselves out of shame because, in their village, a disability is considered taboo. In the dialect of their community whose inhabitants are mostly Muslims, the word disability is a slang used to insult a person, he added. “If they can be silent and scared to come out of their homes because of their disabilities, then it will be worse when HIV is concerned. It is a double stigma,” he mentioned. After being taught the importance of SRH services alongside the other caregivers, he pledged to stand up against improper reproductive health practices perpetrated against young women in his community.
Aminou, a young Muslim girl has learned that if she is HIV-positive and pregnant, it is possible, to deliver an HIV-negative baby. She was also happy to learn how to care for her body, and to know there are services and interventions in cases of sexual harassment and rape. In all excitement, she promised to share what she had learned with her peers. With this feedback from the participants, the project team is confident of transfer of knowledge and that these vulnerable young people and their caregivers have been empowered to make informed decisions concerning their health and that of their children.