Friday, September 19, 2008

Conference on Deaf People and Sexuality in

Important conference on Deaf people and sexuality in Mexico City next weekend (

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Neon flashing condom video

Flashing condoms anyone? A friend made this video and posted it at his blog Shows how visual presentations can make a statement to everyone.

Monday, September 08, 2008

AIDS 2008, Deaf Outreach, Thurs Aug 7

The most important, and most successful Deaf event of the week was our outreach to the Mexico City Deaf community on Thursday night. While the main event was Donald Pilling talking about his own life as an HIV+ gay Deaf man and how to prevent the spread of HIV, we also had Cambodian hip hop dancers, an Israeli sign poet, the premiere of the first Mexican video on HIV and the Deaf community (a fictional story of a Deaf girl finding out she is HIV+ and the consequences), and a puppet show. The evening was both very informative and entertaining. While the Global Village was often noisy and had many distractions, these didn't affect our events--the busy atmosphere added to the general buzz of the event and of course the Deaf audience was not affected by the noise. We were also able to hand out specific information on HIV/AIDS including a handout in Spanish and copies of a beautiful South African comic book in sign language. One of the aims of the program was to break down some of the stigma and stereotypes involved with HIV and AIDS. Donald's honest and open presentation and the lively question and answer session that followed I think went a long way to helping people understand the issues involved.

Looking ahead to AIDS 2010 in Vienna, we hope to again do a Global Village community outreach and to reach even more people with information about HIV/AIDS, the Deaf community and people with disabilities.

AIDS 2008, Skills Building Workshop, Thurs Aug 7

On Thursday afternoon we gave a Skills Building Workshop. Although our attendance wasn't large, the audience was very international with people from Africa, Asia and North America, and were very interested in what we had to say. As I hoped, we made a number of new and useful connections. A summary of what people were speaking about and notes on the presentation I gave are below.

Reaching Deaf Communities
A Workshop on Bridging the Gaps
AIDS 2008, Mexico City
August 7, 2008

Leila Monaghan, University of Wyoming, USA
Donald Pilling, CSSQ, Canada
Washington Opiyo Sati, Liverpool VCT, Kenya
Claudia Bisol, Universidade Federal do Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil
Jessica de Ruijter, VSO, Netherlands

Leila Monaghan
Overview of issues
Presentation of demographic information
Introduction of some of the solutions

Donald Pilling
President, Coalition SIDA des Sourds du Quebec
Long time AIDS activist
Part of only Deaf run AIDS organization in the world
Years of experience doing outreach to Canadian Deaf communities
Has examples of outreach materials

Washington Opiyo Sati
Director, Deaf Outreach, Liverpool VCT, Kenya
Organizes regular stationary and mobile counseling and testing units (MVCT)
Made Kenya a model for many other countries

Claudia Bisol
Teaches at University of Caxias do Sul, Brazil
Coordinator of program for Deaf students
Research about Deaf adolescents and sexuality including narratives about sex

Jessica de Ruijter
Advocacy Officer, Voluntary Service Organization (VS0), Netherlands
Before starting at VSO in October, worked on prevention at UNFPA in China and for Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Will speak about challenges VSO has in doing work supporting programs for HIV & AIDS and disabilities.

Leila Monaghan
HIV/AIDS and Deaf People
Deaf people are often cut off from mainstream communication methods
Can’t get information from television, radio
Often also have trouble with complex literacy
Natural language for most Deaf people is sign language
Deaf people often part of close knit communities
Sexually active but don’t have information about protection
Governments often ignore needs of Deaf people
US Example
CDC does not keep statistics
Only state of Maryland does
Results from public testing data since 2003 show Deaf people are twice as likely to be HIV+ as hearing people.
In African American population of MD, hearing rate 3.4%, Deaf rate 6.4%
Epidemic is different in Deaf community, almost 1:1 male to female.
Differences between Deaf and hearing get worse as people getting tested get younger.

Many attempts to help Deaf community are cosmetic
TTY phone numbers listed don’t work provides ASL as language but not searchable
Small centers often served community but support has dwindled in last 8 years

Can contact Leila at:
Hivdeaf at gmail dot com

AIDS 2008, Wednesday Aug 6

On Wednesday we have an outreach program by José Antonio Domínguez, the visually impaired president of Voluntad Para AIDA. He was assisted by his colleague Enrique Silva. José Antonio brought along eye masks and a bag of condoms to give people an idea of what it was like for blind and visually impaired people to negotiate the details of condoms and sex and the implications that had for the spread of HIV/AIDS. He gave his very lively presentation in Spanish to an enthusiastic group of AIDS 2008 Global village visitors. Donald Pilling and I didn't put masks on so we could see our ASL interpreter, Alexis Martinez and got to see exactly how the other audience members reacted to his program, a short version of a play he has been doing for over a year.

AIDS 2008, Press Conference Tuesday, August 5

We gave a press conference on HIV/AIDS and Deaf issues on Tuesday. Unfortunately, because we were opposite a big formal press conference (and because few people think about issues of HIV/AIDS and disabilities), no one came into our little press conference room. With the encouragement of the press conference staff, we took our press conference out into the press hall and Voice of America recorded interviews with Donald Pilling for their Latin American program and then (on Wednesday) with Washington Opiyo for their African program. What we wanted to tell the world about were the dismal statistics on HIV/AIDS rates in the US Deaf community and the innovative programs being developed in Canada and Kenya to combat AIDS.

That evening, however, we cheered up as we met a number of Deaf and hearing Mexican leaders in the fight against HIV/AIDS including Ernesto Escobedo, president of the Union Nacional de Sordos de Mexico, Erik Arelleno, and Sandra Oliver. Before we got to Mexico City, we didn't know what kind of education efforts were being done in the Deaf community so we were very glad to find and join with an already active outreach program. Through Ernesto and his colleagues and Gaspar Sanabria and the Mexican Federation of Deaf People we were able to put out the word to a large number of people in the Mexico City Deaf community about our outreach program on Thursday evening.

Monday, September 01, 2008

AIDS 2008, Monday August 4

On Monday, I presented a paper on Deaf HIV infection rates in the United States. Only the state of Maryland keeps any figures on infection rates and those point to an epidemic being ignored by the larger public health authorities in the US including the Centers for Disease Control (the CDC). Deaf people consistently test HIV+ at about double the rate for hearing people.

Table 1
Maryland 2003, 2005, 2006 & 2007 Public HIV Testing Results

Year/ % HIV+
Pre-2000 Deaf 4.3%

2003 Deaf 4.5% Not Deaf 2.1%

2005* Deaf 3.3% Not Deaf 1.7%
2006** Deaf 2.4% Not Deaf 1.3%
2007** Deaf 3.5% Not Deaf 1.2%

These figures were from Maryland Public Testing Sites only, other testing sites in Maryland do not record information on hearing status.
* No figures were available for 2000-2002 and 2004
** Positive Percentages from 2006 and 2007 include both preliminary and confirmed positives
(Chart adapted from figures from HRSA 2001, Monaghan 2006 and from new information provided by the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, July 2007 and July 2008).
For more complete figures, write hivdeaf at gmail dot com.

AIDS 2008, Opening Ceremony, Sunday August 3

Between August 3 and August 10, I was in beautiful Mexico City with 25,000 other people for the AIDS 2008 conference. In the next couple of days I will be posting on the events of the week, from the colorful dancers of the opening ceremonies on Sunday to the great outreach program led by Donald Pilling of CSSQ on Thursday evening.

The opening ceremony was held at a large hall away from the main building. I had met up with Donald Pilling, a Deaf activist from from Montreal at the Global Village and we then met up with Washington Opiyo, the Deaf coordinator of the Liverpool Deaf VCT services in Kenya and his interpreter, Peninah Vulimu.

The four of us then tried to get down to the front of the auditorium to meet the official sign language interpreters of the event. The security people had no idea what we were talking about, we had to get the coordinator of all interpreters to talk to us and he finally introduced us to Daniel Maya, who does Mexican Sign Language (LSM) and Alexis Martinez, who does both LSM and American Sign Language.

After some discussion we were given good seats at the front and side of the auditorium. There were no LSM users in the audience (people in the Deaf community were very interested in the conference but couldn’t afford the high fee for participation in the main events) but Daniel stood on the left side of the auditorium and signed in LSM for the general public. I hope he was filmed so others can see him at some point. We were on the right side of the auditorium with Alexis doing ASL and Peninah doing Kenyan Sign Language (KSL) in front of us. All three of the interpreters did a magnificent job under incredibly difficult circumstances. Each signed the entire three hour opening ceremony without a break, conveying the words of UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot, President of Mexico, Felipe Calderón, and United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon with verve and clarity.

These working conditions were equivalent to interpreter torture. Normal protocol would have had interpreters changing out every twenty minutes particularly when interpreting for such important speakers as Piot, Calderón, and Ki-Moon. While it was wonderful to see three languages signed so beautifully for all to see, the lack of replacements for interpreters was typical of the lack of planning by AIDS 2008 on Deaf issues. The names of the interpreters were not even revealed until two weeks before the start of the convention. Usually interpreters are chosen well ahead of time and have preview copies of speeches and presentations to work with a month to six weeks ahead of a conference. We hope to work with AIDS 2010 to make sure that interpreter issues are dealt with long ahead of time.

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Wyoming AIDS Walk, 2008

Jamie Pond and I walked in the Wyoming AIDS Walk on April 19, 2008 to raise awareness about the problem of the Deaf HIV/AIDS epidemic. Fellow marchers were friendly and the weather was sunny and clear.

We invite everyone to march in their local AIDS walks with signs and information to raise awareness of Deaf issues until the CDC and national funding agencies recognize the impact HIV/AIDS has had on the Deaf communities.

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