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The country’s hearing impaired women are slated to benefit from a US$100,000 programme, which is designed to educate them about HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.
The one-year HIV/AIDS Prevention Programme for Deaf Women in Jamaica, is being funded by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) with the Jamaica Council for Persons with Disabilities (JCPD) as the implementing agency.
It is aimed at empowering deaf women with the skills necessary to address their social, cultural and economic vulnerability to HIV/AIDS, explained Miriam Maluwa, UNAIDS Country Coordinator with responsibility for Jamaica, the Bahamas and Cuba, in her address at the launch held yesterday (July 26) at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel.
According to Mrs. Maluwa, the assumptions that disabled people were not sexually active and therefore at low risk for HIV/AIDS, have “impeded progress in the prevention of HIV/AIDS infections among persons with disabilities and have increased their vulnerability”.
She noted that the programme would amplify the voices and the productivity of deaf women and expressed the hope that the initiative “will also mobilize more resources and additional partnerships” to assist them.
Mrs. Maluwa commended the government’s efforts to draft legislation to protect the rights and dignity of disabled persons, noting that a focus on disabled persons was justified not only from a developmental perspective, but also from a human rights perspective.
Minister of State for Labour and Social Security, Senator Floyd Morris, in his remarks at the function, commended the programme’s focus on providing deaf women with employable skills. He pointed out that the social and economic disenfranchisement of deaf women made them more vulnerable to inveiglement and sexual abuse, which could contribute to them contracting sexually transmitted diseases.
Meanwhile, Senator Morris pointed to the need for public education programmes on HIV/AIDS to incorporate messages that were sensitive to the disabled community. He implored HIV/AIDS project coordinators to ensure that television education campaigns were supported by close captioning and sign language communication, to ensure that the hearing impaired was also enlightened.
The HIV/AIDS Prevention Programme will empower deaf women and girls and their guardians, with survival and defense strategies and alternative and affordable economic skills such as floral arrangements and cookery, which should lead to their independence and in the long term, protect them from sexual abuse and its related violence.
The programme will be implemented through skills training seminars islandwide with five key centres in the parishes of Kingston, Clarendon, Manchester, St. James and St. Ann, which will serve the surrounding areas.
The Kingston centre will serve Portmore, St. Andrew, St. Thomas, St. Mary, Portland and St. Catherine; the Mandeville centre will serve St. Elizabeth and Manchester; the centre in Ocho Rios will serve Trelawny and St. Ann; the Montego Bay centre will serve Westmoreland, St. James and Hanover; while the May Pen centre will serve beneficiaries in Clarendon.