Story by story turning the tide against the spread of HIV
Date Posted : Wednesday, 01 Aug 2012
By Callie Long, Internews Consultant.
The story of HIV is not over yet. As AIDS 2012 concluded with a clear sense that the end of the epidemic is possible with sustained political will and financial and scientific commitment, many challenges still lie ahead – all of which will demand that the media continues to play its role in telling the story of a disease that is increasingly about people who are marginalized in society.
At the final media conference, incoming International AIDS Society President and AIDS 2014 International Conference Chair Prof. Françoise Barré-Sinoussi stressed that new minds and a new vision is now needed in the response to HIV. “We need to mobilize many people and we need a new vision by learning from others working on other chronic diseases”, said Barré-Sinoussi, a Nobel Laureate, and Director of the Regulation of Retroviral Infections Unit at the Institute Pasteur in Paris. “I promise to do my best to use the Nobel award to be the voice of everyone”, she said, noting that it’s not always easy, but that to fully turn the tide against the spread of the disease “we need to be together like we were in the 1980s”.
In as much as the story of HIV right now is about scaling up resources and making tools available that have the potential to save millions of lives, stigma still remains one of the key challenges in the response to the virus. It is also the one challenge for which there is no scientific cure, but one that the media can tackle. “We need to be linking science and implementation better, and mobilizing ourselves [still] for the elimination of stigma and discrimination for key populations”, said Barré-Sinoussi.
Internews in Kenya Country Director Ida Jooste noted that the media is ideally placed to contribute to turning the tide against HIV. “The way we tell this story, the way we normalize HIV and the people who live with it, through the language and images we use, can either stigmatize people further, or give others the courage to test for HIV. More and more, stories about science are good news stories – we have to tell them well. But the stories about people are still about shortcomings: stigma, inequality, lack of leadership – we have to tell those stories thoughtfully and courageously”.
“That we still have no cure after more than 30 years is scary”, noted Frank Owusu Obimpeh, a journalist attending the conference from Ghana. For him, the other challenge to the media is to continue telling the story of access to treatment and challenging those who are “using HIV at the expense of those affected by it”.
Violet Otindo, a reporter for Citizen TV in Kenya, and supported by Internews to attend the conference said: “Journalists now more than ever before have a big responsibility. All these strategies to end AIDS must be communicated to communities; journalists are the ones to do so”.
For Kenyan freelance science journalist Isaiah Esipisu, also supported by Internews to attend the conference, the media should keep analyzing the issues, telling the success stories and highlighting gaps, so that the world can keep the momentum going”.
AIDS 2012 drew nearly 24,000 participants from 183 countries. The week-long program featured 194 sessions covering science, community and leadership, and saw some 1500 media representatives cover the event. The 20th International AIDS Conference will be held in Melbourne, Australia in 2014.
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