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Ralph is a friend of Brad's. If you look closely at the pictures of Ralph, you'll see that he wears hearing aids in each ear. He is mostly deaf, but can hear enough that he has the benefit of being comfortable speaking.

I learned recently that deaf people have the ability to speak but generally do not because it is far easier to "speak" in their first language, ASL (American Sign Language). It is incorrect to refer to a deaf person as "dumb" because of the implication that he or she might be stupid.

Ralph, like Brad, is living with AIDS. They knew each other before being diagnosed, mostly because they had common friends in New York. Each of them talks at length about the friends that they have lost to AIDS. It seems very curious that so many deaf people have been exposed to this virus.
They both agree that there are heightened risks for deaf youth because there are no HIV education and prevention programs specifically designed for deaf youth. They also agree that for their friends who are living with HIV/AIDS, most do not understand what few options and services are available for them, so they simply take care of each other. Some are homeless, most are in denial and many, many are dead without even having understood their disease.
Why not think of a sign that would be a cool way to say "AIDS" in the language of deaf people? Brad and Ralph would appreciate that you are trying to work with them to bring education and awareness to their peers.
Now look at the four pictures of Brad signing the letters "A", "I", "D", "S". See if you can learn those four letters. Now look around you - I'll bet there is someone nearby who can teach you the rest of the alphabet and soon some of the word signs of this beautiful language!


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