When you mention the disease AIDS, you may not get anything close to a cringe from the audience listening to you.
But when you ask an individual out of the audience to do a voluntary HIV test which is to be declared to the public or a third party, it takes much more than just courage to do it.
But this is the true story of a deaf person going to a health centre to do an HIV/AIDS voluntary test.
The health workers they meet at these centers are not trained in sign language hence less prepared to give deaf patients the same service as the people who can hear.
Robert Tusiime, an Enrolled Nurse, also doubling as an HIV/AIDS counselor at Mpara Health Centre III, in Kyegegwa says he fumbles around when he receives deaf patients for counseling since he cannot communicate through sign language.
“If luck is on my side and the patient is literate, I eliminate the interpreter and counsel the patient through exchanging information in a book where I write and he reads and vice versa”.
Tusiime who receives three deaf patients on average in a month says that if the Aids Support Organization and Ministry of Health had come up with sign language charts that are specially made for the deaf on HIV/ AIDS awareness and health at large, it would make a huge difference in the way they treat these patients.
The deaf are still a minority group in Uganda and a lot has been done to help them live through life in Uganda but very little has been done for them in the health sector.
If the Ministry of health and the Aids Support Organization partnered and made these charts, they would make a huge difference in deaf people’s lives like Sarah (not real name) a 12 year old deaf girl who was born with HIV/AIDS.
This girl’s HIV/AIDS status is public knowledge to most people in Nabyongora village, Mubende where she stays. But it’s quite unrealistic that the girl herself doesn’t know her HIV/AIDS status.
All Sarah knows is; she swallows septrines daily because she is special. Every time it clocks 8:00 P.M., she asks her father for medicine. Sarah’s father 50 year old, Serapio Karubanga, who is also living with HIV/AIDs finds it normal to declare his status to anyone who inquires but finds it awkward to tell his deaf daughter why she swallows Septrines daily in fear of stigmatizing her.
“I want my child to have a future brighter than the education barriers put around deaf students,” Karubanga said. Distracting her with her HIV/AIDS status can only limit her hope and possibilities in her future, he says.
Being stuck between a protective father and a clueless community on how to handle deaf patients, Sarah’s only knowledge of HIV/AIDS is on the posters scattered in her school compound saying “HIV/AIDS kills”.
While most of the girls her age who are hearing know more about the disease, Sarah is the typical deafy story and as a whole most deaf people still don’t know about the existence of HIV/AIDs. Even all the celebrations which are being done today a quarter of the deaf will find out about them but those who are not privileged to have interpreters wouldn’t even know about it.
The deaf have managed to crawl out of the dark with the help of Action Aid Uganda by 2002 but a lot still needs to be done since the awareness seminars don’t go very far since they are held in deaf run schools like Kinyinya deaf unit of which some of the deaf people may not get the privilege to attend.
And worse still the World Aids day is mainly organized for the hearing living the deaf on the margin as if people with special needs don’t go through the same problems as the hearing.
Today I just wanted to reach out to anyone who could pass this on to the right people so that the deaf also get included in these awareness campaigns because they are also a part of our communities.
They are your cousin, your brother, your uncle, your grandfather/mother and if you can’t relate to this try wearing headsets and play the loudest music and ask someone to talk to you about HIV/AIDs….that will be the ultimate reality check.
What are you advocating for on this day share with me in the comments below?