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September 30, 2005

Deaf People Cut Out of HIV Awareness Campaigns

From: - Africa - Sep 30, 2005

New Era (Windhoek)
September 30, 2005

By Surihe Gaomas

FOR Namibia's 18,313 hearing impaired people, the greatest challenge facing them is their accessibility to HIV/Aids information campaigns, which is available in the most conventional manners of disseminated information.

Since most of these campaign messages are conveyed only through radio, television and the print mediums, interpretation of awareness campaigns of the pandemic through sign language interpreters is very much limited, leaving the deaf uninformed about the dangers and prevention measures when it comes to HIV/Aids.

Raising this concern, the Executive Director of the Namibian National Association of the Deaf (NNAD) Martin Tjivera said much is needed with regard to this challenge facing the association.

However, recent donations of N$5000 from the Road Fund Administration (RFA), he said, would go a long way in improving the HIV/Aids campaign for hearing impaired people in the country.

"Sometimes, television does not have any sign language interpreter for such programmes, while most people cannot read the high English words in newspapers," said Tjivera while accepting the latest helping hand from RAF in Windhoek last Wednesday.

As the pandemic takes its toll on many of the country's productive citizens, NNAD is striving to conduct ongoing HIV/Aids awareness training workshops for its members and those who are hearing impaired in remote villages of the country as well.

Training is therefore a crucial factor for the Namibian National Association of the Deaf, and it is also planning to assign two representatives who attended similar workshops in order to train others in the regions. In an effort to help streamline the asso-ciation's efforts, the association also plans to establish a HIV/Aids Department within its structures.

"If HIV/Aids is so difficult to control generally in Namibia, then it must be an extra challenge for hearing impaired people," added the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Road Fund Administration, Penda Kiiyala.

In view of this challenge, Kiiyala urged other institutions to follow suit in empowering NNAD to make its sign language based HIV/Aids campaigns a success.

Pursuant to social corporate responsibility, RAF identified the NNAD as a recipient of the donation to help it to achieve its efforts to improve the lives of people who are hearing impaired.

Since its inception in 1991, the NNAD has made major progress in creating and raising awareness in society about the many challenges facing the hearing impaired.

One such achievement is the National Disability Council Bill that was passed in Parliament in 2004, which in turn resulted in the establishment of the National Disability Council (NDC).

As a non-governmental organisation, NNAD relies on such donations, while also relying on the services of sign language interpreters. Currently, there are four sign language interpreters in Windhoek alone. The number of sign language interpreters is limited since most of them have other full-time jobs.

However, youngsters, especially those who finished Grade 12 or who are studying through Namcol have expressed keen interest in learning this skill at the association.

Echoing the sentiments of the NNAD executive director, sign language interpreter Penofina Eises said that this is a great concern as most hearing impaired people are also illiterate, making HIV/Aids awareness campaigns not fully understood.

"People can see the pictures of visuals, but they cannot read the text underneath the pictures - then it's a problem," said Eises.

While a visually impaired person can hear the HIV/Aids messages from radio and television, or someone can even read it to them, the hearing impaired person finds it difficult to comprehend fully, especially if the person cannot read or write due to high English terminology. That is why it becomes even more imperative for the encouragement of more sign language interpreters in the country.

At one stage it happened that even when the National Council (NC) wanted to introduce sign language interpretation for their sessions the dilemma was that most interpreters would be kept away from their full-time jobs, thus the pertinent need for more people to do this as a professional job on its own.

Recently CLASH, a non-governmental organisation for hearing impaired children, launched a sign language poster depicting various health issues, among them information related to HIV/Aids.

The poster was designed using the Namibian sign language with the aid of Namibian sign language interpreters.

Such ventures would go a long way in addressing the lack of HIV/Aids information that many hearing-impaired people experience in the country.

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