Perceptions of HIV/AIDS by deaf gay men.

Deaf gay men represent a subpopulation of the gay male community at particularly high risk for HIV/AIDS due to numerous barriers including language, stigma, and inequitable access to health services. The participants in this exploratory pilot study (N = 5) struggled with the ongoing threat of HIV infection and the pervasive nature of AIDS-related debilitation, death, and grief. Whether HIV infected or not, they described living at the intersection of multiple communities–the deaf, gay, and hearing–each characterized by unique communication styles, cultural expectations, and a propensity to marginalize outsiders. Health care providers were perceived as lacking compassion and largely ignorant to the needs of deaf persons, in general, and deaf gay men, in particular. Printed HIV materials were considered culturally inappropriate, incomprehensible, and ineffective. These findings suggest an extraordinary risk for adverse mental and physical health outcomes if care is not appropriately designed for this vulnerable population.