Deaf people don’t have sex is a popular misconception that annoys John Meletese a South African HIV positive man. ‘We’re all the same, Deaf people have sex, hearing people have sex’ he commented when recently interviewed for CNN. Despite the fact that many Deaf people are as sexually active as those who are hearing an article published in the Guardian today reported that young Deaf people are not getting the sexual health information and resources they need to make informed, safe sexual choices and that this results in increased risk of HIV and STIs amongst the death community. The article reported that one girl from a recent TV documentary said she took the pill as she thought it protected her from STIs in addition to avoiding pregnancy. Equally alarming was a recently published article in the Toronto Star which reported that Deaf people might be at between 2 and 10 times higher risk of HIV infection than the general population.
A lack of sexual health knowledge is common amongst the Deaf LGBT and non-LGBT community alike, but probably more serious amongst those that are LGBT. Comparatively high exposure of deaf gays to AIDS/HIV, in particular, continues to be a concern for those working in sexual health. A pilot study with deaf gay men form the US identified negative perceptions of LGBT Deaf people from sexual health providers. Deaf LGBT people often face additional barriers might lead to a lack of sexual health knowledge and higher risk of STIs, including HIV. These include – stigma, inequitable access to services and lack of appropriate materials. Information of HIV and STIS was found to be inappropriate and criticised for being ‘incomprehensible, inaccessible and ineffective’. Sexual health staff were also condemned for showing a lack of compassion towards LGBT Deaf people. The above factors might explain why the ‘Count me in too’ survey showed that in Brighton over 1 out of 10 Deaf LGBT participants found it very difficult to access health services.
More needs to be done for this community and to reduce the risk of HIV prevention. Appropriate materials, trained staff and specifically targeted information for the LGBT Deaf community would definitely be a big first step to achieving this. In addition, increased visibility of LGBT deaf people might also help the cause. Many people, for example, don’t know that the internationally recognised British Artist David Hockney is Deaf and Gay. If visibility of the Deaf LGBT community was improved maybe sexual health providers would be more likely to recognise the importance of taking a more inclusive approach to the community. The experience of those who identify as LGBT and Deaf shows, then, that not only is it important to embrace the diversity of the LGBT community (another issue) but also ensure HIV/STI prevention is appropriate and inclusive of the Deaf LGBT community, otherwise there is a higher risk of HIV and STIs amongst the group.
Deaf Gay and Lesbians marching at Paris Pride
Groups and websites for the LGBT Deaf community
Deaf LGBT UK Facebook page: http://en-gb.facebook.com/pages/Deaf-LGBT-UK/171069191662
Deaf AIDS website – provides information and serves as a tribute to those who are were Deaf and died as a result of HIV and AIDS related illnesses: http://www.deafaids.info.
Deaf Queer Resource Centre: Accurate, up to date and comprehensive material for LGBT Deaf community: http://www.deafqueer.org/
GALOP – Anti-hate crime charity – Type talk operator for support for Deaf people: 18001, followed by 020 7704 2040, http://www.galop.org.uk/
GMFA social groups for those who are LGBT and have a disability: http://www.gmfa.org.uk/theguide/browse?cat=%2FCampaigning%2FDisability
Greenbow – Irish Deaf LGBT charity full of useful information and links.
UK – Bristol deaf gay pride: http://www.deafab.co.uk/
GMI Partnership provides free sexual health counselling, mentoring and sexual health advice to gay and bisexual men and trans folk who are HIV negative in London. For more information e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
The views above are those of Tony Furlong and do not necessarily reflect those of GMI Partnership.