A US-based organisation, PACT, has funded an HIV/AIDS prevention project in Matsapha, Swaziland with a $110,000 grant from USAID and the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The project will train Young Voices members and other people with disabilities to be peer educators who will provide ongoing HIV education to other disabled people. They will also inform people about HIV testing and provide opportunities to discuss sexuality, disability and HIV prevention. Those involved hope that the project will help people get to know their HIV status and use this information in their own lives.
Members of the Young Voices group running through the Cheshire Homes Society of Zambia have lobbied the government to include people with disabilities in all efforts to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS. Working together with Leonard Cheshire Disability, they have contributed to 13 awareness raising campaigns through which over 1,300 young people with disabilities learned about HIV/AIDS prevention. The project also supports orphans and children with disabilities to attend school and adults with disabilities to access health and social care.
Young Voices members from Freetown, Sierra Leone, were invited to contribute to the crafting of policy on physical medicine and rehabilitation. At a conference on this subject held by Handicap International, Young Voices added to policy making by interacting with national decision makers such as parliamentarians and other civil servants from various government ministries in Sierra Leone.
The 55 Young Voices campaigners in Bulawayo took part in a march to raise awareness of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Organised by the Southern Africa Federation of Disabled People’s Organisations (SAFOD) and the National Council of Disabled Persons Zimbabwe (NCDPZ), the march was a call for world leaders to take disability into account disability when they met in the USA for the UN Summit on MDGs. Later in the month Young Voices members marched again, this time to raise awareness that HIV/AIDS is an important issue for people with disabilities.
Young Voices groups have joined the Zimbabwe Aids Network (ZAN), an alliance of organisations that deal with HIV/AIDS campaigns. While the amount of information about HIV/AIDS available in Zimbabwe has increased, people with disabilities may not be able to access it as easily as other people. Through their membership in ZAN, Young Voices members are campaigning for the display of HIV/AIDS information in Braille and other formats. Working with them, ZAN will also hold several workshops on HIV/AIDS for people with disabilities.