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
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).