People with disabilities vulnerable to HIV

Subhra Priyadarshini

doi:10.1038/nindia.2007.8 Published online 27 June 2007

The research team in Nagaland

© Alo Lasuh

The HIV risk of people with disabilities in India has not been well researched. An Indo-Australian group of population researchers, which closely studied people with disabilities in the high prevalence states of Nagaland and Manipur, has concluded that they are highly vulnerable to HIV1 . This vulnerability stems from their social exclusion, poverty, poor knowledge of the disease, gender discrimination and obstacles in accessing HIV programmes. Many of them were found to live hidden away in remote areas and did not receive any information on disease prevention. Many others were considered 'soft targets' for sexual exploitation.

The two north-east states are among those with the highest HIV infection rates, largely because of needle sharing by injecting drug users. Conventional intervention programmes target these drug users and other 'high risk' groups such as sex workers and their clients.

The 2001 census had identified 2.2% of the Indian population living with a disability. "Unofficial figures estimate the real prevalence to be 5-6%," says Martha Marrow, lead researcher. But no special programmes for people with disabilities have thus far been planned by either the government bodies or NGOs working towards prevention of HIV, she says.

The research project funded by the UK Department for International Development has created guidelines to make intervention programmes disability-inclusive. The Guidelines include ideas for taking action with minimal cost and resources, such as using the networks and expertise of both HIV and disability sectors, producing HIV material in a variety of formats, and making small modifications to make it easier for people with disabilities to use existing services.

The authors of this work are from: Nossal Institute of Global Health, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Vic 3010, Australia; Department of Anthropology, Manipur University, Imphal, Manipur, India; School of Population Health, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Vic 3010, Australia


  1. Marrow,M.et al.Fostering disability-inclusive HIV/AIDS programs in northeast India: a participatory study. BMC Public Health doi:10.1186/1471-2458-7-125 (2007).