Predictors of negative beliefs toward the sexual rights and perceived sexual healthcare needs of people with physical disabilities in South Africa

Carew, Mark T. ; Braathen, Stine Hellum ; Hunt, Xanthe ; Swartz, Leslie ; Rohleder, Poul (2019-05-11)

CITATION: Carew, M. T. et al. 2020. Predictors of negative beliefs toward the sexual rights and perceived sexual healthcare needs of people with physical disabilities in South Africa. Disability and Rehabilitation, 42(25):3664-3672. doi:10.1080/09638288.2019.1608323

The original publication is available at http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/idre20/current

Article

Background: Although sexuality is a ubiquitous human need, recent empirical research has shown that people without disabilities attribute fewer sexual rights and perceive sexual healthcare to benefit fewer people with disabilities, compared to non-disabled people. Within a global context, such misperceptions have tangible, deleterious consequences for people with disabilities (e.g., exclusion from sexual healthcare), creating an urgent need for effective strategies to change misperceptions. Methods: To lay the groundwork for developing such strategies, we examined predictors of the recognition of sexual rights of people with physical disabilities within the South African context, derived from three key social psychological literatures (prejudice, social dominance orientation and intergroup contact), as well as the relationship between sexual rights and beliefs about sexual healthcare. Data were obtained through a cross-sectional survey, given to non-disabled South Africans (N = 1989). Results: Findings indicated that lack of recognition of the sexual rights for physically disabled people predicted less positive beliefs about the benefits of sexual healthcare. In turn, high levels of prejudice (both cognitive and affective) toward disabled sexuality predicted less recognition of their sexual rights, while prejudice (both forms) was predicted by prior contact with disabled people and possessing a social dominance orientation (cognitive prejudice only). Evidence was also obtained for an indirect relationship of contact and social dominance orientation on sexual healthcare beliefs through prejudice, although these effects were extremely small. Conclusion: Results are discussed in terms of their implications for rehabilitation, as well as national-level strategies to tackle negative perceptions of disabled sexuality, particularly in contexts affected by HIV.

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