Know your status!

By Hanlie Arlow, Hearing Impaired Pastoral Counsellor & Student Support Officer at NID College.

Students of the National Institute for the Deaf (NID) at Worcester shuffle into the classroom. I am keeping an eye on them. Each on his own mission, in his own comfort zone. They are very disciplined. They quickly take their seats and one might have heard a pin drop – that we can hardly hear!

I write the words HIV/AIDS Awareness Week on the board. As if been hit by icy water, they suddenly sit up straight and I have their full attention. A week of explanation, statistics and testing follows. They become paler: 60 million people in Africa are infected, 15 million have died in Africa already. So many anxious faces I have hardly ever seen in my life.

We had HIV/AIDS Awareness activities on campus each night of the week.  Bows and posters were made and videos were shown by the local clinic. Many questions were asked during coffee time each night. There was a reading corner in the lecture room. Information was plenty and time little. Suddenly there was a topic about life and death that affected them personally. “What is my status?” “Yes, I am positive” or “Wow! I’m negative”.

They were so insecure. Some students made it very clear that they were not going to attend the testing. A girl asked me with tears in her eyes how she would manage to sleep  the night after the testing. My heart broke for each of them.

It was explained to the students that the testing was confidential and voluntary.The night after the testing we brought in counsellors.The counsellors could not speak sign-language and the students did not want the campus interpreters to be present during testing, due to confidentiality. It really was a problem. The students did, however, allow one interpreter for all counsellors in the end. The testing took

very long. We had to continue the next evening and that caused a lot of tension.

The majority of students had the test done! For that I sincerely thank God.

The day after the testing the same girl came to my office. With a wide and relaxed smile, and tears in her eyes, she told me she had had a wonderful night’s sleep. Some of the other students did not sleep at all...

It is very traumatic when one is confronted with something that has an effect for life. For the HIV/AIDS posititive deaf students post counselling is a problem. Where do they go? How many counsellors can speak sign-language?  Some students need help and it lacks. 

If it is possible for you as a counsellor, learn sign-language. This is a gap that needs to be filled. I plead with you as a counsellor to please walk the extra mile and make a difference in the alarming world of our deaf and hard of hearing clients!

 

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God places the heaviest burden on those who can carry its weight. - Reggie White