Essay

An assumption with deadly consequences

Throughout the world, health workers find it hard to believe that the disabled are at risk for HIV/AIDS.

Because of the strange sores that had begun to appear on the inside of James’ mouth and on his arms, the 28-year-old finally decided to get tested for HIV. Heterosexual, with more than one girlfriend, and living in a region of southern Africa where almost 40 percent of the population is HIV-positive, James had good reason to worry. He begged a neighbor for a ride into town to avoid walking seven hours to the HIV clinic, and once there he waited three hours for his name to be called. As soon as he stepped to the front desk, however, he was dismissed; the nurse had been watching James while he waited, and right away she told him, “You don’t need a test; you couldn’t possibly have HIV.”When I spoke with James six...

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