March 7, 2005

ARTICLES: AIDS organizers seek to educate the media (ASIA)

AIDS organizers seek to educate the media

Internews and Staying Alive increase awareness of AIDS in Asian countries by educating journalists and creating public service announcements, reports Anuja Kumaria

Friday, March 4, 2005

By Anuja Kumaria
AsiaMedia Staff Writer

Media organizations are increasing their coverage of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Asian countries to build a greater awareness of the epidemic and end discrimination.

Internews' "Local Voices" program trains journalists to improve their coverage of AIDS and Staying Alive's December, 2004 "OneWorld" competition challenges participants to create public service announcements that will reach the public and increase awareness of HIV/AIDS.

These new avenues of coverage were created because disease experts say that a lack of information and misleading reports pervade many Asian countries.

While the media has the ability to influence our beliefs about the epidemic and promote assistance efforts, Internews HIV/AIDS Advisor Liz Gold says, "In many parts of the world, sensationalist and often misleading reporting of AIDS-related issues continue to fuel fear and misconceptions among the general population and promote stigmatization and discrimination of those living with HIV."

In India for example, "The media tends to project people living with HIV and AIDS as victims or as villains," said Internews Advisor for Health Programs, Dr. Jaya Shreedhar in an Internews newsletter. "People living with HIV need to be portrayed as important partners in prevention and care efforts."

Shreedhar explained that the media environments of individual countries often get in the way of reporting well. "Some editors [in India] feel AIDS has been given disproportionate importance and funding considering that there are far more serious public health problems like malnutrition or malaria that need coverage." For that reason, "journalists continue to cover AIDS related events rather than the epidemic itself." Gold says many journalists lack the ability to report accurately because of their limited scientific backgrounds and access to reliable sources.

Internews' "Local Voices" project began in early 2003; it offers hands-on training for journalists in the Mekong Delta region of Southeast Asia and some areas of Africa. The project, which is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), trains journalists in newspaper, radio and television, to improve and expand their coverage of AIDS.

"During our intensive training, the media professionals always have personal interaction with the people living with HIV and AIDS. This affects how they portray them in their reporting, and gives the issue a face," says Gold.

In November 2004, Internews conducted one such training session in the Mekong Delta; the organization took journalists on field trips to vaccine trials sites, NGO programs for migrant fishermen and an orphanage. The journalists then produced feature stories about their hands-on experiences. Internews reports that one newspaper journalist said the program changed her view of people living with HIV/AIDS and clarified appropriate language to use in reporting the epidemic.

Another global organization, Staying Alive, increases awareness of the HIV virus by creating public service announcements, or PSAs. Staying alive held a competition in early last December in which participants created a PSA with the theme, "Women, Girls and HIV/AIDS." Through this campaign, Staying Alive hopes the public would realize the importance of helping women take appropriate measures to reduce their risk of contracting AIDS.

The winner of the video category, Muhammad Zhariff Affandi, 23, of Malaysia produced an announcement called "Bhat Bodoh (Just Pretend)" which shows a young woman who says women and youth are not properly educated and are therefore at an increased risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. The winning radio entry by Namita Paul of India, "Spread awareness, save futures," is a dialogue between a personification of the HIV virus and a young girl.

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You can see the winning video entry, courtesy of MTV Asia/Asia Pacific Broadcasting Union, here.

Other web resources are also available for journalists covering AIDS in Asia:

AIDS Media Center - Global AIDS resource for the media
The AIDS Media Center offers resources and tools for media organizations and professionals to improve their knowledge and the depth, quality and impact of their HIV coverage.

YouandAIDS - The HIV/AIDS portal for Asia Pacific
This website is a reference portal that comprehensively addresses AIDS related information for specific countries in the Asia Pacific region.

Asian AIDS resources
Another directory of AIDS resources for selected countries in Asia including India, Malaysia, Japan, and Philipines.

Special report on AIDS and media
MediaChannel has assembled a package of articles and links that address questions regarding media coverage of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

Date Posted: 3/4/2005


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