Covid-19 complicates people living with disabilities’ access ARVs

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By James Muonwa, Mashonaland West Correspondent

PEOPLE living with disabilities (PLWD) are failing to get access to antiretroviral (ARV) therapy due to various factors that have been compounded by the coronavirus (Covid-19) induced lockdown.

Although most districts in Mashonaland West managed to achieve the 90 percent distribution of ARV drugs ahead of the 2023 target, it was observed that PLWD were facing challenges in getting medication timeously and with ease.

PLWD raised these concerns during a sensitisation workshop with the media held in Darwendale recently.

A PLWD member, Norman Garadhe said the Covid-19-induced national lockdown, characterised by transport shortages as intercity commuter omnibuses were banned, had affected them the most, resulting in most physically-challenged people failing to access live-saving ARVs.

“Many PLWD who are our members were finding it difficult to get access to ARVs during the lockdown. You would appreciate that kombis were banned. So, in most instances, travellers were using public transport, which in most cases, were haulage trucks.

“Imagine a crippled wheelchair bound or visually-impaired person trying to board a truck. It is a difficult task. Also, the transport woes resulted in fare hikes which were out of the reach of mostly disabled persons who are unemployed,” said Garadhe.

National Aids Council (NAC) Mashonaland West provincial coordinator, David Nyamurera said PLWD had for long been neglected and it was important to involve them in sexual reproductive health programmes to curb the further spread of HIV/Aids.

“The reason why we are interacting with this constituency is that they are also human beings with natural feelings and need companionship.

“We have, for long, interacted with other segments of our population such as sex workers, people living with HIV/Aids, adolescent boys and girls, then we said where are disabled persons,” said Nyamurera.

He said there was need to compile ward and district databases for PLWD so that they are involved in various programmes to do with sexuality and respond to challenges peculiar to them.

Mashonaland West provincial social welfare officer in the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, Agnes Mutowo was hopeful that the plight of PLWD would be addressed as her ministry had created a dedicated department that deals with issues affecting them.

“People living with disabilities had been lumped with other vulnerable groups and their issues were not dealt with adequately. Our ministry has now created a specific department that deals with issues affecting people living with disabilities,” said Mutowo.

Said another PLWD, Epiphania Foroma, “We are a neglected constituency. You can’t afford to ignore this constituency, for example in the midst of a pandemic (Covid-19).”