Tuesday, 31 January 2012

HIV & AIDS among the deaf population in Sub-Saharan Africa

It has been more than 2years since I covered the above topic in my Master's thesis at UCL. And not much appear to have changed (for the better) on ground for the deaf particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Although I only covered three Southern African countries in more detail than others: Mozambique, South Africa and Namibia, I have seen that the situation in most African countries are similar to Mozambique in terms of governmental failure to include disability in HIV issues. South Africa is on the forefront as its government has pro-actively included PWD their HIV/AIDS policy. Whilst the HIV policy in Namibia has accorded some recognition to PWD as a vulnerable population, this same recognition is not shared among the healthcare providers.

It's just not right.

PWDs are not asexual beings and neither does HIV discriminate nor does it hide or run away from PWDs. I have had enough of interactive sessions on HIV and reproductive health with deaf people to know that the fight against HIV is seriously lacking in punching power. As long as PWDs particularly the deaf and the hearing-impaired are excluded from mainstream prevention and care programmes or don't have adaptations done in HIV outreach effort, we all would have to put up with the cumbersome and utterly miserable presence of HIV in our society for much longer.

A lot of people ask me why I focus a lot on literacy among the deaf. One simple reason: they are placed at a worse disadvantage than any other specific group in any society around the world. According to Prof. Groce in 2004, the global literacy rate among PWD is about 3%. The rate falls lower to about 1% among deaf women. This is pathetic and augers really badly for any effort to bridge the gender equality gap. In the African society, certain socio-cultural factors like gender inequality influence attitude and behavior related to HIV/AIDS.
Much needs to be done to positively re-shape cultural norms like gender relations/roles that put deaf women at risk.

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