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NIGERIA: Media praised for HIV/AIDS advocacy in UNGASS report

[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

©  Lekan Otufodunrin/IRIN

More space and airtime is being devoted to HIV/AIDS in the Nigerian media

LAGOS, 30 May (PLUSNEWS) - A growing number of Nigerian journalists have evolved from mere reporters and broadcasters to being HIV/AIDS advocates, and their contribution is recognised in Nigeria's report on progress in meeting targets set by the 2001 United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV/AIDS (UNGASS).

"Although sensational reporting still occasionally occurs, reports are less stigmatising and utilise appropriate language. Media owners are being engaged as partners in the campaign and journalist networks have been formed to promote specific issues such as PMTCT [prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV]," the country report said.

Clara Okpei was co-hosting a live radio show on Metro FM, a popular radio station, when colleague Charles Anasodo referred to people living with HIV/AIDS as "HIV people".

"No Charles, they are not HIV people, they are people living with HIV/AIDS" Clara corrected. Charles didn't see any difference between the two terms but Clara pointed out that 'HIV people' was a stigmatising description, and went on to educate Charles and her listeners about the need to avoid using discriminatory language.

Chairman of the National Action Committee on AIDS, Prof Babatunde Osotimehin, acknowledged that the media have contributed greatly to reducing the prevalence rate from 5.8 percent in 2003 to 4.4 percent in 2005.

"The surveys we have done show that about 95 percent of Nigerians have heard about the virus. A good number of them have internalised the messages and this has translated into behaviour changes, as evidenced by the delayed age young people now have their first sexual experience, the number of sexual partners people now have and the use of condoms. We have the media to thank for this," Osotimehin said after the recent release of the latest HIV/AIDS figures.

More space and airtime is being devoted to providing information and educating readers, listeners and viewers about the pandemic, and the media have moved beyond covering awareness and prevention to tackle issues such as treatment, care and support, and accountability in disbursing funds.

Jumai Danuk, programme director of the Diellat Foundation, an NGO based in Jos, central Nigeria, pointed out that while the media have done well as a group, those based outside urban areas were lagging behind.

"Those outside Lagos [Nigeria's biggest city], Ibadan [in south-western Nigeria and the country's second largest city] and Abuja [the capital] really have to wake up, because they are not presently doing enough ... One may not blame them because many of ... [them] don't have access to media training on coverage of HIV/AIDS," said Danuk, a lawyer who is living positively with HIV.

To remedy the situation, initiatives like Journalists Against AIDS (JAAIDS) and Development Communication organise training workshops, seminars, roundtable discussions and resources to improve coverage of the pandemic. An annual Red Ribbon media award for HIV/AIDS coverage has also stimulated regular coverage of HIV/AIDS issues.

Working in concert with activists, who usually set the agenda for addressing important issues, the media have also had some influence on policymakers. Earlier this year the government began providing free antiretrovirals after media pressure forced it to discontinue the subsidised treatment porgramme.

To access the NIGERIA UNGASS country report: http://data.unaids.org/ pdf Format


Recent NIGERIA Reports
"Nollywood" joins fight against HIV,  17/Oct/06
Oldest and youngest carry the AIDS burden,  1/Sep/06
Crackdown on dodgy blood banks,  28/Jul/06
More ARV sites but some areas neglected - report,  18/Jul/06
New study tracks development of resistance to ARVs,  12/Apr/06
· AIDS Media Center
· The Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis & Malaria
· International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS
· International HIV/AIDS Alliance

PlusNews does not take responsibility for info in links supplied.

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