Canada: Gay, Deaf and Missing the Message; Deaf People Are Affected by HIV/AIDS at Higher Rates Than the Hearing
June 22, 2007
In kicking off Pride Week festivities on Monday, Toronto Councilor Kyle Rae noted that American Sign Language interpreters will translate speeches and song lyrics at all official events. Advocates worry that that many deaf people are missing out on messages warning of the dangers of risky sex and intravenous drug use.
Statistics are limited, but some activists estimate that deaf people are affected by HIV/AIDS at rates two to 10 times higher than the hearing public. U.S. Department of Health statistics suggest that one in seven deaf people has a history of substance abuse, compared to one in 10 among the hearing.
In August, the Toronto-based Deaf Outreach Program will celebrate its 20th anniversary. Spokesperson Kevin Canning said that for two decades the small, poorly funded organization has been struggling to get the complex message of HIV/AIDS transmission and safe-sex practices to thousands of deaf Canadians whom it fears do not fully understand the issues.
Virginia Gutman of Gallaudet University, a school for the deaf in Washington, D.C., said many gay deaf people are not getting the message about HIV and safe sex. "It's all about access to information. If there is a public service announcement on the radio, they're not going to hear it." The medical care gay deaf people receive may not get the message across either, Gutman said, particularly if the doctor does not sign.
In good news, text messaging and computer video cameras have caused a "sea change" in the way deaf people can participate in the world around them, Gutman said.
06.22.2007; David Graham