John Meletse is Deaf gay black man from South Africa. He was the first black Deaf South African to publicly come out as gay. A year later he was the first Deaf South African to disclose his HIV status. He shares his story in this video. Video courtesy Open Society Foundations.
[Transcript of video for Blind/DeafBlind users:
John Meletse – DEAF PROUD HIV+ GAY
I’m from a family of five, and I’m the only boy. My grandmother took care of me since I was a baby, but unfortunately, there was no communication at home. So I was excited when I went to a deaf school. There, I was identified as being gay. When I went home, I told my grandmother. She said, “Ah, I knew since you were small that you were gay.” When I started working, my fellow staff members were very supportive. Especially my boss, Dr. Ruth Morgan. But one day after work, my grandmother gave me a note. It had been slipped under our front door. I read it and was devastated. It said, “You have AIDS.” The following day at work, I was feeling sad. Then I passed out. I think it was the stress. I was taken to the clinic, and luckily the tests were negative. At the time, I had a boyfriend. We had been going out for eight months. The relationship was fine. But we had difficulty communicating. One day we were drinking, and I began feeling dizzy. I found myself in bed, naked. I asked him if we’d had sex; he said, “yeah … well?” I asked if we’d used a condom; he said, “no … so what?” I thought, “Did I just get HIV?” Soon after, we broke up. A while after that, I felt like my health was deteriorating. So I made the decision to go to a clinic. I was anxious … and sadly there was no counseling. The doctor asked if I knew English, and we talked by writing notes. He took my blood and asked me to wait for 15 minutes. I went outside, felt nervous … and then he called me in. He wrote in big bold letters, “YOU HAVE AIDS.” He shoved it right in my face. Deaf people don’t know what it means, to be HIV+. They discriminated against me for being gay AND HIV+. I try to motivate deaf people to know their status. Many deaf people don’t know Judge Edwin Cameroon is HIV+. Hearing people have role models like him. Where are the role models for deaf people? We don’t have them, so I try to be a role model to deaf people. I’m proud of myself, for this.
Created by John Meletse]
Transcribed by Nanette Edwards for Planet DeafQueer