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Disability and sexual and reproductive health service utilisation in Uganda: an intersectional analysis of demographic and health surveys between 2006 and 2016
Authors: Muriel Mac-Seing, Christina Zarowsky, Mengru Yuan, and Kate Zinszer
Source: BMC Public Health, Volume 22, Issue 438; DOI:
Topic(s): Reproductive health
Sexual health
Country: Africa
Published: MAR 2022
Abstract: Background The United Nations through universal health coverage, including sexual and reproductive health (SRH), pledges to include all people, leaving no one behind. However, people with disabilities continue to experience multiple barriers in accessing SRH services. Studies analysing the impacts of disability in conjunction with other social identities and health determinants reveal a complex pattern in SRH service use. Framed within a larger mixed methods study conducted in Uganda, we examined how disability, among other key social determinants of health (SDH), was associated with the use of SRH services. Methods We analysed data from repeated cross-sectional national surveys, the Uganda Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) of 2006, 2011, and 2016. The three outcomes of interest were antenatal care visits, HIV testing, and modern contraception use. Our main exposure of interest was the type of disability, classified according to six functional dimensions: seeing, hearing, walking/climbing steps, remembering/concentrating, communicating, and self-care. We performed descriptive and multivariable logistic regression analyses, which controlled for covariates such as survey year, sex, age, place of residence, education, and wealth index. Interaction terms between disability and other factors such as sex, education, and wealth index were explored. Regression analyses were informed by an intersectionality framework to highlight social and health disparities within groups. Results From 2006 to 2016, 15.5-18.5% of study participants lived with some form of disability. Over the same period, the overall prevalence of at least four antenatal care visits increased from 48.3 to 61.0%, while overall HIV testing prevalence rose from 30.8 to 92.4% and the overall prevalence of modern contraception use increased from 18.6 to 34.2%. The DHS year, highest education level attained, and wealth index were the most consistent determinants of SRH service utilisation. People with different types of disabilities did not have the same SRH use patterns. Interactions between disability type and wealth index were associated with neither HIV testing nor the use of modern contraception. Women who were wealthy with hearing difficulty (Odds Ratio (OR)?=?0.15, 95%CI 0.03 – 0.87) or with communication difficulty (OR?=?0.17, 95%CI 0.03 – 0.82) had lower odds of having had optimal antenatal care visits compared to women without disabilities who were poorer. Conclusion This study provided evidence that SRH service use prevalence increased over time in Uganda and highlights the importance of studying SRH and the different disability types when examining SDH. The SDH are pivotal to the attainment of universal health coverage, including SRH services, for all people irrespective of their social identities.