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September 24, 2006

HIV/AIDS victims prefer deaf counsellors

From: Daily News - TSN - Dar Es Salaam,United Republic of Tanzania - Sep 24, 2006


HIV/AIDS victims trust deaf Voluntary Testing (VCT) counsellors because they cannot reveal their secrets, it has been disclosed.

A technical advisor in the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, Ms Peris Urassa, said yesterday that experience from neighbouring Kenya had shown that in 2005, a total of 7,000 people attended voluntary counselling due to the trust they had in deaf Counsellors.

She made the comments in Dar es Salaam on Friday at the closing ceremony of a special African Medical Research Foundation's (AMREF) VCT training for the deaf.

Ms Urassa urged the participants to utilise fully the training and the knowledge gained to enhance voluntary counselling to people with disabilities especially the deaf.

She said despite having a considerable number of VCT centres in the country, there was still a challenge ahead in providing voluntary counselling to people with disabilities.

The United States Agency for International Development's (USAID) Team Leader of Programmes Thomas Crubaugh said he was optimistic that the trainees would play a critical role in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

"You are the newest recruits in the fight against HIV/AIDS. You are the communicators and counsellors among the deaf to explain why and how we must win the battle against HIV/AIDS", he said.

AMREF Country Director, Dr Paul Waibale said the training, which is the first to be offered to deaf in the country, was aimed at enabling the deaf community to have an accurate knowledge on HIV/AIDS and access to VCT services.

He further noted that among other things, the objective of the training was to equip people with disabilities with techniques and skills necessary for handling clients' problems during counselling as well as to facilitate linkages of deaf people living with HIV/AIDS to other support services in the community.

However, a representative from the Tanzania Association of the Deaf, Robert Charles, complained that the government and other organisations dealing with HIV/AIDS had done little to reach them hence most of them are not aware on HIV/AIDS infections and how it can be prevented.

"The National Policy doesn't specify clearly on how they can engage their efforts to reach marginalized society like deaf people thus many suffered due to the disease," he said.

A total of fourteen deaf people attended a four-week AMREF's training course on Voluntary Counselling and Testing conducted at Kibaha in Coast Region.

@ TSN 2006