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African AIDS Project Targets People with Vision Loss
Blindness International and Canadian International Development Agency have launched a program in Africa aimed at improving access to HIV/AIDS programs for people with vision loss.
The project seeks to make HIV/AIDS education programs more accessible to people with vision loss, and ultimately reduce the rate of infection among this vulnerable group. The initiative is entitled "HIV/AIDS Awareness & Training Program for Blind and Visually Impaired Persons in Africa”, and will debut in six African countries over the next two years. It will be implemented in Kenya, Cameroon and Malawi in the first year, and Ghana, Tanzania and Rwanda in the second year, using a model that can then be reproduced in other African countries.
Components of the African project include multilingual trainings. They will be supplemented with resource materials which are available in audio, large print and Braille formats. In each country 20 blind or visually impaired peer counsellors/trainers should be recruited and trained. These people will provide individual counselling, and also teach other organisations how to make their programs accessible to clients with vision loss. Through the project national advocacy networks will be developed and will include vision-loss organisations in each country. National strategies should consider people with vision loss and include them in mainstream programs.
While other developing nations have seen increases in life expectancy and standard of living over the past ten years, the AIDS disaster has caused African nations to actually lose ground.
Although there are many HIV/AIDS programs already in place in Africa, they are largely inaccessible to people with vision loss. There are many reasons for this, including beliefs that blind persons are immune to HIV or do not have sex at all, as well as a general lack of awareness about how to present information to people with vision loss.
In fact, people with vision loss are just as vulnerable to HIV/AIDS as the general population -- and blind women are often the targets of abuse, making them even more at risk.
This initiative got underway in November of 2005 and training sessions have commenced as of February 2006.
- Further information about the Canadian National Institute for the Blind at: www.cnib.ca