As we wrap up this look into HIV in the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community, I want to review a few points made in the first two installments. In the November/December issue of Survival News, I talked about how isolated the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community feels from those of us in the Hearing World. We confirmed the fact that those of us who hear control information, treatment and most of the services offered by AIDS service organizations.
In the January issue of Survival News, I shared an interview with "Adam," a deaf man living with HIV who is unsure if he is ready to "out" himself within his community. We saw how difficult it is for someone from the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community to find resources that are user-friendly. The barriers for these folks keep many from enjoying the education, treatment, support and ultimately, the ability to live successfully with HIV. This is not fair.
Before I list resources available locally and nationally that I gleaned off the Internet and from other sources, I want to talk a little about our commitment here at ASP to the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community. On January 22 and 23, 2000, at Operation: Survive! we will be providing ASL (American Sign Language) interpreters for all plenary and group sessions at this weekend. With the cooperation of Rob Calhoun, case manager for the deaf and hard of hearing at AID Atlanta, we will register those who require ASL for this workshop. This is our first attempt at providing ASL and I am very grateful to Rob for both his assistance and enthusiasm. Because he has a TTY line he will be glad to register those from the deaf and hard of hearing community. His direct TTY line is 404-870-7801, or you may register by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of my goals for the new year for the Peer Counseling Program is to make it accessible to the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing by installing a TTY line and have special training for the peer counselors in working with this community. Our new direct TTY number is 404-885-6023. This will put you in touch either with a peer counselor or an answering machine that is private. A peer counselor will return your call as soon as possible.
Ultimately, it is my hope that at least one of the participants from Operation: Survive! who is proficient in ASL will be drawn to become a peer counselor. This would be the best way to make our services available to this community.
Now for those resources:
These are only a few of the resources available. I did a search on the web under "deaf hiv/aids" and came up with about twelve. All of these came through www.deafaids.net.
This inquiry into HIV and AIDS in the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing community has taught me how important it is to be aware of how we (read: I) often discriminate without intention. But it takes really "listening" (with our ears, eyes and hearts) to become aware of the needs around us. No one should be excluded from accessing the services that they deserve.