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New HIV testing services for the deaf

LESEDI MKHUTSHWA
FRANCISTOWN: Botswana Society for the Deaf (BSD) will officially launch the first ever HIV testing services for the deaf community. The HIV Testing Services (HTS) for the deaf community will be hosted at Francistown Center for Deaf Education on October 19.

In an interview with Mmegi online, BSD acting director Kabelo Seadimo said that their organisation has recently secured funding from African Comprehensive HIV/AIDS Partnerships (ACHAP) to pilot the HTS for the deaf in Gaborone, Serowe and Francistown.

He further said that the project intends to provide the first HTS sites specific to the deaf community in Botswana.

Seadimo indicated that the initiative comes as a result of the past experience faced by the hearing impaired in which they were not able to exercise their rights to privacy on local clinics, due to lack of communication with the health service providers.

He said that the  unique aspect of the project is that counsellors  who are competent in both sign language and  HIV testing  will help in addressing issues of confidentiality.

He also said that each testing office would have two employees  trained on  both sign language and qualified as HIV testing personnel  together with a linkage officer.

“The role of the linkage officer is to  act as a go between

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a person with hearing impairment  and health service providers during HIV testing,” he said.

Seadimo said that  the project  is also aimed at eliminating the occurrence of new HIV  infections  because they cannot  achieve this if  people with hearing problems  continue to lag behind in terms of HIV.

He stated that there was a need to educate  the deaf community  on HIV related issues  by training more  counselors so that issues of confidentiality are not compromised.  He  implored the deaf community  to come in large numbers  because free HIV testing will be provided to them  during the HTS launch.

Seadimo explained that BSD is a non-profit making, non-governmental and charitable organisation aimed at fulfilling the needs of people with deafness.

He added that  BSD promotes the interests and welfare of the Deaf population in Botswana through advocacy and empowerment.

BSD currently owns and governs two education centres, Ramotswa Centre for Deaf Education (RCDE) and Francistown Centre for Deaf Education (FCDE).



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