Date of Conferral



Doctor of Public Health (DrPH)


Public Health


Jeanne Connors


In Cameroon, many disabled people (an estimated 10-20% of the population) have inadequate access to education and health care, and disabled people's organizations (DPOs) are advocating for social change. Yet, there is a scarcity of information regarding how African DPOs address HIV and AIDS. The purpose of this study was to assess how DPOs in Cameroon have responded to AIDS in the disabled population and to identify strategies to enable DPOs to manage AIDS issues. This study was guided by the complex adaptive systems theory as the theoretical framework. The research questions focused on what DPOs have done to develop their organizational capacities to address AIDS issues, and on the contextual factors that influence these organizational capacities. To answer the research questions, a qualitative, multiple case study was conducted. A purposeful sample of 25 people, primarily executive members of four community-based nongovernmental DPOs and key informants with experience in this field, participated in interviews and focus groups. Information was gathered from documents and participant observation. Data were coded using a priori and emergent codes and iteratively analyzed into themes. Evident themes were that capacities in these groups were limited by marginalization and poverty, a lack of connection between DPOs and the AIDS community, limited health education, and inadequate understandings of the complexity of AIDS. DPOs desired participation in AIDS-related efforts and continued to explore potential opportunities. These results could be used to enhance social change by improving AIDS practices and research programs, increasing organizational capacity and social inclusion of DPOs, and the development of policy at organizational and governmental levels.