By Robert Tapfumaneyi
THE National AIDS Council (NAC) Friday handed over 5 000 special user-friendly face masks to the deaf community.
The face masks enable wearers to lip read, which is essential in sign language communication.
NAC chief executive Bernard Madzima said the special face masks will be helpful in facilitating and ease of communication on the HIV/AIDS and Covid-19 pandemics including the ongoing national coronavirus vaccination programme.
“Although the country has covered great strides in responding to both HIV and Covid-19 targeting the general population, there are some most at-risk population groups that, due to their nature are often left out and, therefore, likely to be most affected,” Madzima said at a brief handover ceremony.
“This includes the deaf community. These people are not easily served by the general messaging and programmes that we churn out to promote prevention and treatment.
“We are excited that since the emergence of Covid-19, the National AIDS Council has been working closely with the Sunrise Sign Language Academy, who have graciously provided sign language back-up to all our audio-visual productions promoting use of HIV prevention services, social distancing, washing of hands and wearing of masks among other practices to effectively tame the twin pandemic of HIV and Covid-19,” he said.
Madzima added; “The work we are doing with Sunrise Academy of Sign Language is part of the ongoing partnership we have had over the years together with the Ministry of Health, through which NAC has supported the training of primary care counsellors in sign language and special needs interpretation for HIV communication and programming.
“Dealing with special groups requires careful communication and demystification of myths that may counter the effectiveness of the vaccination campaigns and uptake of services.”
The NAC director said in addition to providing HIV and Covid-19 prevention services to the deaf and other special needs population sub-groups, the organisation had deliberately enhanced HIV services targeting sex workers, adolescent girls, young women, prisoners, youths, and artisanal miners to ensure no one is left behind.
Zimbabwe has an estimated population of 700 000 people who are classified as deaf.