Photo by: Amber Mullett
Deaf community advocate, HIV educator
HIV prevention information has passed the Deaf community by. HIV campaigns rarely reach us and, if they do, they are frequently distorted and not understood by the majority of Deaf people.
One Deaf woman told me she won't get HIV because she "only has sex with Deaf men." This belief is not uncommon in the Deaf community. For many Deaf individuals, HIV/AIDS remains a "hearing person's disease." No accurate statistics exist about the number of Deaf and hard-of-hearing people living with HIV/AIDS, the number getting tested, receiving treatment, etc.
There are higher rates of substance abuse in the deaf community. There are higher rates of sexual abuse for both boys and girls who are Deaf. There is a lack of sex education and accurate information related to sexual health, period. Deaf people struggle for equal access to medical and social services, employment, and education and are represented in every group at highest risk for HIV.
Culturally competent education efforts that respect Deaf culture and its use of American Sign Language are long overdue. I see little progress.