“We’ve (actually) been given info on the basics of HIV,” admitted Prime Truya, a local Deaf LGBTQIA community leader from Davao City, “but past efforts have been limited to ‘basic knowledge’ sharing.”
With this, select members of the Deaf community in Mindanao were trained not only on the basics of HIV, but also on community-based HIV screening.
This endeavor – part of a project by Bahaghari Center for Research, Education an Advocacy, Inc. (Bahaghari Center), backed by collaboration between Youth LEAD and Y-PEER (Asia Pacific Center), which eyes to address Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR) needs of Young Key Populations (YKPs) In Asia and the Pacific – is the first to actually teach the Deaf about actual screening/testing.
The goal, said Disney Aguila of Bahaghari Center and Pinoy Deaf Rainbow, Inc., is not just to “inform them that this issue is just as important to them. It is also to equip them with the actual know-how on what to do to become solutions in dealing with this issue.”
This project is also a follow-through of the public service announcements (PSAs) developed in Filipino Sign Language (FSL) to specifically tap the Deaf community.
Aguila lamented that “the Deaf community is often left behind in HIV-related efforts. Not surprisingly, we have a lot of catching up to do.”
In Davao City, for instance, at least prior to the Bahaghari Center project, none of the Deaf community members were trained to screen/test others for HIV. This “approach of not empowering us makes us dependent on Hearing people,” Aguila said, adding that this dependence is not always good because “it disempowers us in dealing with this issue.”
Aguila admitted that the Deaf community will continue to have “an uphill battle in fighting HIV exactly because of this playing catch-up,” she said. “But every effort than can be done now should already be done now.”
The community-based HIV screening trainings are provided by The Red Ribbon Project, Inc.
Other supporters of the project include: Outrage Magazine, Fringe Publishing, Pinoy Deaf Rainbow, TransDeaf Philippines, Deaf Dykes United and Pinoy Deaf Queer.