In the process of crafting a policy on the elderly and disabled, St Kitts’ Ministry of Social and Community Development and Gender Affairs has reached out to societal groups to find out the issues that they face.

One such session, specific to HIV/AIDS, revealed that in spite of their age or physical challenges the elderly and disabled are still sexual beings.

Supervisor of Social Services Ms. Ann Wigley said that this view emerged from a workshop entitled ?The Sensitization of the Elderly and Disabled on HIV/AIDS,? held at Manhattan Gardens, where participants said they feel the sting of discrimination when younger, able bodied persons feel that they should not be having sex. She said that this was particularly so among the disabled who rely on wheelchairs for mobility. Supervisor Wigley advocated their cause.

?They are saying they are human beings, they have feelings just like everyone else,? she emphasized. ?Most of them at the workshop said, yes, we are having sex. We don?t have it every night or every week like you, but we do.?

Supervisor Wigley noted that statistical evidence shows that HIV/AIDS is within the elderly and disabled populations and it is transmitted mainly by sexual activity. She said it was such factors that caused her ministry to request assistance with the workshop from the National AIDS Secretariat.

Ms. Wigley said the proposal was approved and preparations for the workshop included a focus group which was held June 16 and consisted of the proprietor and owner of The Grange, two youth parliamentarians, two healthcare providers, a senior citizen, the president of the St. Kitts and Nevis Association of Persons with Disabilities, and a minister of religion.

The session was chaired by a member of staff of Social and Community Development and Gender Affairs. The group determined that the workshop should have sessions including HIV/AIDS and the Elderly ? How can we Assist them and their Caregivers; as well as; Are Seniors and the Disabled having Sex and if so Should they be having Sex?

Ms. Wigley informed that during the workshop itself, one of the issues mentioned by seniors is that they did not have to use condoms during their youth and so were unfamiliar with their placement. They were informed during the session that there were both male and female condoms. She explained that a follow-up session would be necessary to fully bring seniors up to date with the HIV/AIDS preventative mechanism. Supervisor Wigley said it was evident that they were willing to learn. She said during the discussion it emerged that sexual activity was not limited to sexual intercourse. They stated that partners could undertake various activities together.

The Social Services Supervisor said that by the end of the workshop both participants and facilitators acknowledged that more sessions were necessary, particularly considering that they are beneficial to all parties.

Additional follow-ups would include inviting younger persons to discussions with the elderly and disabled so that different views and opinions on various topics could be shared. She noted that one break-through that was achieved at the focus group prior to the workshop, was that initially the youth felt that their parents should not be sexually active but as the session progressed they came to realize that physical expressions of love did not have to end as one becomes older.

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