Rebecca Schleifer and Kyle KnightDecember 1, 2012 09:39
Commentary: They are denied education because it is assumed, incorrectly, that they are asexual.
A nurse takes a blood sample on March 8, 2011 in a mobile clinic set up to test students for HIV at Madwaleni high school near Mtubatuba in Kwazulu Natal, South Africa. (Stephane de Sakutin /AFP/Getty Images)
NEW YORK — “People look at disabled people and think they don’t have sex. We have sex. And we can be infected with HIV.” John Meletse is a deaf, gay, and HIV-positive South African. When he went to get tested for HIV in 2001, the clinic staff couldn’t communicate in sign language. The doctor took his blood, showed him a piece of paper that read, “YOU ARE HIV POSITIVE,” and then asked him to leave. He was shocked by this news, and struggled to understand what this meant for his life and how to cope. Meletse’s case is not unique. Over a billion people — 15 percent of the world’s population — live with a disability. These numbers should confer power and authority in decision making about all aspects of their lives, including to HIV and AIDS. Yet people with disabilities have been largely ignored in the global response to HIV.