The UPHLS Story: Interviews with Physically-Challenged Individuals Living with HIV

The UPHLS Story

Deaf and HIV Positive Man

‘Mark’ (not his real name), who is deaf and HIV positive, explains the challenges he faces.

In 2016 the Umbrella of Organization of Persons with Disabilities in the Fight against HIV/AIDS and for Health Promotion (UPHLS) celebrated 10 years of working in Rwanda. CDC Rwanda, through PEPFAR funding, has been supporting UPHLS during most of this time.

UPHLS is the lead organization in Rwanda working to ensure equal access to HIV services and treatment for people who are physically challenged. The UPHLS success story is best told through the experiences and testimonials of its beneficiaries.

‘Mark’ (not his real name) is an astonishing artist who happens to be both HIV positive and deaf. ‘Mark’ gives a moving testimonial of the impact that UPHLS has made in his life. Read his testimonial below, then click on the link to watch it online.

The Challenges of being both deaf and HIV positive

UPHLS staff holding drawing

UPHLS staff hold up ‘Mark’s’ freehand drawing of the UPHLS logo.

“I am 42 years old and deaf. I live in Rwanda. In 2011 I discovered I was HIV positive. I don’t know when I got HIV. Many deaf people can have HIV and not even know it. I am speaking to you through an interpreter because I am afraid if people know I am HIV positive I may not get work.”

“It is difficult being both HIV positive and deaf. When a deaf person goes to the hospital to get HIV services, communication is difficult. Sometimes it is hard to communicate with doctors and nurses; there is no privacy and you have to wait long hours to be served. It makes you feel unwanted. It can make you not want to go to the hospital for HIV services again.”

“In 2014 I was introduced to UPHLS. UPHLS helps people like me to get more dignified HIV services. They are helping train doctors and nurses to use sign language and teaching deaf people the dangers of HIV.”

“It is still difficult being both HIV positive and deaf, but with UPHLS at least now we have a voice.”