By: Brian Dyak
The prevalence of HIV and AIDS in the disabled community is, basically, left out of the mainstream discussion of the disease. Obviously, when the scope of analysis of such a critical disease has blind spots, there is a problem. In this particular incident, the problem can truly be solved with the direct help of the entertainment media industry and its partners.
There are two basic causes for the disabled community being left out of the HIV and AIDS discussion. First, there is a lack of specific data relating to the prevalence in this population. Second, generally, it is assumed that the disabled community is sexually inactive. Ultimately, this is a cyclical issue in many ways. There is a lack of specific research because there is no awareness of the problem, and there is no awareness because scientific research has yet to shed light on the issues. Furthermore, traditional proliferation of information regarding HIV and AIDS is often ineffective at reaching this audience. For example, the blind cannot read brochures, the deaf cannot hear radio PSAs, and mentally disabled people may misunderstand vague metaphors often used in discussing sexually transmitted infections. Similarly, it is a simple lack of awareness resulting in the assumption that disabled people are sexually inactive. (Sidenote: Some studies even suggest this is true for transmission via intravenous drug use, too. The disabled community is just as likely to have drug abusers.)
These two causes manifest into one major effect: Inadequate education of HIV and AIDS. Obviously, the lack of research and attention in this field means that the scope of HIV and AIDS has blind spots, which carry through into the education of the disease. Additionally, this problematizes the education of the disabled community. When the overall assumption is that disabled persons are sexually inactive, they remain uneducated about simple safe sex practices. It’s that simple.
And this is where we come in. The entertainment media industry can break the cycle by raising awareness of the issue. This will have amazing repercussions in scientific fields of study, help educate both disabled and nondisabled people, and even combat sexual stigmas of this large population. By attacking this issue on multiple media fronts, we can spread this message. Besides, is this a character you’ve seen on television yet?
Creative storytelling can engage the heart, soul, and mind. I encourage an eye to reaching all people through some level of communication…radio and TV would be a great start.