• Ten per cent of Kenya's population is made up of people with special needs.
• Health service providers should be well trained in handling people living with disabilities.
Kenya declared 1980 the National Year of Persons With Disabilities. In 2010, the promulgated Constitution recognised the rights of persons with disabilities.
Currently, 10 per cent of Kenyans are living with disabilities ranging from speech, mobility, visual, auditory and cognitive. To reduce the stigma and discrimination people living with disabilities face, the term has been replaced with persons with special needs. Persons with special needs also include adolescents in humanitarian situations including those in refugee camps.
Persons with special needs experience difficulties accessing information and services related to sexual and reproductive health. These services include accessibility to contraceptives, HIV counselling and testing services, good mental health as well as pre and postnatal services.
At the family level, persons with special needs also experience emotional and sexual abuse. They are more likely to be infected with sexually transmitted infections including HIV. In other cases, persons with special needs may end up with depression and suicidal thoughts that result from discrimination. Accessing legal justice is another concern for them.
There has been a delay in the prosecution of cases related to sexual and gender violence against people with special needs. At the health facility level, service providers do not have adequate skills to address the needs of persons with special needs. At the community level, not much sensitisation has been done to advocate for their rights.
These gaps in service provision deny this group skills for decision making in terms of childbearing and contraceptive use to protect themselves from STIs and unintended pregnancy.
Naya Kenya, Nairobi