Uganda's Deaf Missing Out on Key AIDS Education
June 9, 2006
On Saturday in Kampala, activists warned that HIV/AIDS could wipe out the nation's deaf citizens because the national strategy to fight the epidemic has ignored them.
About a half-million Ugandans are hearing impaired, and 90 percent of them cannot read. Thus they are largely ignorant of AIDS-prevention messages and are vulnerable to sexual exploitation, the activists said.
"We feel ignored," said Alex Ndezi, who heads the Uganda National Association for the Deaf and is the only deaf member of the country's parliament. "Our community faces extinction as the trend of HIV infection is rising due to the lack of information on its prevention, care, treatment and even available services," he said.
Uganda's national campaign is credited with cutting HIV prevalence from more than 15 percent in the 1990s to about 6 percent today. But Ndezi and other activists said authorities must take urgent steps to include the deaf.
"The problem is how the message is passed on," said James Mwandha, a former legislator who is deaf. "It's either written and many of our people are not educated, or it's on the radio and [we] can't hear them."
"It's impossible to sustain the current trend or improve on it if the disabled, particularly the deaf, are not brought into the development mainstream," Ndezi said.
The activists said that while there are no official statistics to show that HIV/AIDS rates among Uganda's deaf are higher than among the hearing, anecdotal evidence suggests they are.
Agence France Presse
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.