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A VOICE OF OUR OWN: Sexual health and disabled


by the Barbados Council For The Disabled

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Sexual, reproductive health includes People with disabilities.Over the years, the general feeling was that sex was an acquired emotion, which was satisfied when one reached an age prescribed by the legal, social and especially religious bodies that made decisions on such matters. At that time, sexually transmitted diseases were considered the wages of the sin of breaking these prescribed laws, and therefore one was made to feel guilty and helpless against the ravages of syphilis, gonorrhoea.
Pleasure without guiltThings have changed – the mystique that surrounded sex has been systematically removed and young and old now enjoy the pleasure that the act affords, without the guilt once ascribed to it.  However, this raising of the veil has not redounded to people recognising the importance of raising their understanding of the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases, and because of this, the spread of HIV/AIDS and other controllable sexual diseases has spread at an alarming rate.The Barbados Council for the Disabled (BCD) recognised that, as in many other areas of development, people with disabilities were marginalised when the world recognised that education programmes and strategies were needed to be put in place, in order to draw to the attention of adolescents and adults the need to become aware of the devastating effects of STDs. This prompted the council to partner with the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) to create a programme that would heighten awareness of the need for sexual, reproductive education for people with disabilities. The overarching goal of the project is to deliver a comprehensive programme to educate young adults with disabilities on sexual reproductive health issues, which in turn can be replicated in their everyday lives.One of the project’s goals is to facilitate capacity building, empower people with disabilities to play a critical role in the programme, through training, public awareness, and to ensure sustainability by the constant upgrading of the programme as the need arises.The programme has started to achieve its goals; the BCD has embarked on extensive training programmes that will attempt to remove the stigma attached to people with disabilities seeking sexual counselling, where the feeling is that this is not something that they should be involved in. 
Condom distributionIn the very near future, the BCD will be launching a condom distribution sub-programme that will allow the disabled to come to Harambee House, not only to receive condoms, but to obtain the advice of trained counsellors sensitive to their issues.Another aspect of the project designed for the programme is the peer education training which is intended to train young people in sexual reproduction health issues. These peer educators will be able to go back to their schools or clubs armed with information that they can pass on to their peer groups who are empathetic to the problems faced within their circle of friends and classmates.The council also hopes to embark, in association with the Ministry of Social Care, Constituency Empowerment, Urban and Rural Development to enforce, not laws, but enabling national programmes, that will take into consideration environmental characteristics that will lead to healthy sexual lifestyles, access to needed information, easy access to sexual health services, public education that will remove the belief that people with disabilities are asexual or neuter gender. These are some of the goals that the sexual reproduction health programme, with the assistance of the Government, UNFPA, the Barbados Council for the Disabled, the media and public, is hoping to achieve.

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