African Journal of AIDS Research

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HIV/AIDS knowledge among adolescent sign-language users in South Africa

Victor de Andrade, Bontle Baloyi


People with hearing impairment may have difficulty accessing information about HIV/AIDS, especially those who use sign language. Because adolescence is characterised by sexual maturation, it is important to gauge levels of HIV/AIDS awareness and knowledge in this age group. For this scoping study, we interviewed seven adolescent South African Sign Language (SASL) users (aged 15 to 21) who were attending a school outside Johannesburg which caters for hearing-impaired learners from limited socioeconomic backgrounds. The responses were transcribed and themes were clustered to extract the  essence of what was conveyed. The participants appeared to have basic knowledge about HIV and AIDS (e.g. prevention through the use of condoms); however, gaps in their knowledge included misperceptions about contracting HIV infection (e.g. through touching people with HIV or AIDS, or rejecting a person who was possibly HIV-positive as a preventive measure) and confusing HIV disease with other illnesses (e.g. cancer). Overall, the adolescents appeared to have insufficient information about HIV transmission and did not appear to fully understand the consequences of infection. The findings correlate with other research in Africa showing the difficulties experienced by people with disabilities, including hearing impairment, in accessing HIV/AIDS information. The article advocates for policymakers to include people with hearing impairment, particularly sign language users, in HIV-prevention programmes.

Keywords: communication, disability, disability studies, hearing impairment, qualitative research, scoping study

African Journal of AIDS Research 2010, 9(3): 307–313
AJOL African Journals Online