In KwaZulu-Natal, disability and gender are associated with myths and stereotypes that exacerbate the vulnerability of people with disability (PWD) to HIV/AIDS. The present analysis results from a three year qualitative study of 25 people with disabilities and their caregivers. It outlines the interweaving patterns of stereotyping gender and disability and how this may increase the vulnerability of PWD to HIV/AIDS. The paper emphasizes that access to prevention and treatment is still an unfulfilled goal and that an enormous gap in service delivery persists. Sexual abuse and exploitation have become a major threat to fighting HIV/AIDS within the group of PWD. PWD are particularly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS through the threat of sexual abuse. Potential contributors to this are sexual purification rituals, sexual exploitation and the process of the judicial system. The notion that PWD are asexual, virgins, sexually overactive, cursed, dirty or clean increases their exposure to abuse and subsequently HIV/AIDS. Additionally, misconceptions regarding sexuality, gender and HIV/AIDS have exposed women and girls with disabilities, in particular, to abuse and HIV. Yet, effective responses are still scarce and people with disabilities are often denied access to sexual education as well as prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS.
Sexuality and Disability (2009) 27 (1) 35–47 [DOI:10.1007/s11195-008-9105-9]