After spending two weeks in Bloomington, I made my way to Africa to report on the HIV/AIDS pandemic and how it affects people. Uganda was the first country to recognize this disease as an issue and begin fighting against it. For 12 years the country used its own resources to help its people before getting funding from other countries. Uganda has by far done a lot to fight this epidemic and get HIV under control by establishing a variety of programs and services dedicated to controlling the numbers of new infections and keep people alive. I am currently traveling to Kampala, Uganda, to report on how the deaf community was still a population that needs special programs to accommodate for them. I also did reporting on people who are physically challenged or blind because they needed services, but there was no funding available.
So today was one of the first times that I went to report on my own and I finally talked to my first HIV-positive person. The best part about conducting an interview with her was that she’s deaf. I came to the clinic that we agreed to meet at and took a short tour before stopping by the doctor’s office. He had some interesting views on sex in America and how there was a huge paradox between the way Hollywood portrayed sex culture and the way citizens viewed sexual promiscuity. After giving him some of my personal views, I went back downstairs to finally meet with my source.
I went over consent forms and talked to her multiple times to confirm that she wanted to go on the record because my first priority was her safety. She was totally comfortable with revealing her identity and I got set up. I made the conscious decision when framing the interview just in case I decided that it wasn’t safe to reveal her identity.
I conducted the entire interview in sign language. I had her sign back to me and write down her answers so that I could remember them later since I couldn’t count on sound. I didn’t have to mic my subject and I framed her without showing her face. These were completely foreign concepts for me, but I was more than pleased at the final product. I made sure to mention how much she and other deaf people inspire med everyday and I thanked her multiple times for her honesty. She told me almost everything I wanted to know, no matter how personal or emotional the topic was and I was extremely appreciative. I waited on this moment for a long time.
She spoke Ugandan Sign Language while I only knew American Sign Language so some of my signs confused her and vice versa, the alphabet was the same so anything that one didn’t understand, the other would finger-spell the word. This interview consisted of me overcoming two language barriers to talk and the same for her, but we did not need an interpreter. I asked beforehand if one would be provided, but it turned out that she communicated with everyone else by either writing or speaking and lip-reading.
Following the interview, I met one of her guidance counselors and other volunteers at the clinic. Everyone was interested to watch us interact and communicate with each other because they had only written notes back and forth or used their voices. In fact, one doctor said that during the interview was one of the few times he had seen her smile and laugh. She was so excited to be able to sign with me that she had me walk around with her and teach others how to sign the alphabet. I felt fulfilled today because I got to actually put my skills to use and successfully communicate with someone in another language. Today was quite the day.