Deaf Community Faces Unique Challenges in Battle Against HIV/AIDS
"Isolation within American society" and factors such as homophobia create "some of the toughest and most challenging barriers" to HIV/AIDS prevention in the deaf and hard of hearing community, according to top U.S. health officials. Speaking yesterday at the National Meeting on HIV/AIDS and the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community, Surgeon General David Satcher said that the "diverse population" within the deaf and hard of hearing community has often been excluded from "numerous conversations addressing public health," making prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS difficult to deliver. Satcher said, however, that the Department of Health and Human Services is "committed to creating sustainable partnerships with the deaf and hard of hearing community." Dr. Eric Goosby, director of the Office of HIV/AIDS Policy, added that recognition of substance abuse in the deaf community and its connection to HIV, and providing treatment accordingly, is necessary. He said that "homophobia-based discrimination" in the deaf community also impedes HIV/AIDS prevention. "Anecdotally, we know that many gay deaf men seek out hearing sexual partners, which makes communication about safer sex practices difficult. Therefore, we need to break the silence around the stigma and fear associated with homosexuality to create healthy sexual practices among gay and bisexual deaf men and their partners," he said. Goosby also emphasized that "contemporary phrases and idioms" used in the HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment information provided by conventional English-language programs may be lost on members of the deaf community, for whom American Sign Language is their first language (Office of the United States Surgeon General release, 11/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.