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NIGERIA: Journalists trained on HIV/AIDS reporting

Journalist Against AIDS Nigeria (JAAIDS) organised a workshop on effective HIV/AIDS reporting in Lagos last week to provide basic HIV reporting skills for reporters and to address journalists’ attitudes and approaches towards HIV/AIDS, the Nigeria AIDS e-forum reported on Tuesday.

Speaking to IRIN on Wednesday, workshop facilitator Aurora Stally, of the Southern Africa AIDS Information Dissemination Service (SAfAIDS), said the training was a first for many of the journalists and their perceptions of HIV/AIDS were still largely based on myths and ignorance. Some of the statements the journalists wrote down at the workshop included: “HIV/AIDS patients are sexually loose”,”HIV/AIDS does not exist, it is only a propaganda ploy to check immorality” and “Nobody should go near HIV/AIDS carriers”. The workshop also took the journalists through internationally-respected guidelines on appropriate use of language in HIV reporting to avoid stereotypes and stigma.

Stally explained how using war metaphors to describe the HIV/AIDS epidemic or describing people living with HIV/AIDS as “victims” or “sufferers” created an “us and them” situation and further stigmatised the disease. She said by training journalists all over Africa, their ultimate objective was to make the HIV/AIDS story “more palatable” and not just a health issue but “a worthwhile story”. Stally identified a need for a more regular training system in the region, as journalists in other regions particularly Southern Africa, were a step ahead in terms of their knowledge of HIV/AIDS.

Gwen Ansell, facilitator of HIV/AIDS workshops run by the Institute for the Advancement of Journalism in South Africa, told IRIN that journalists’ attitudes towards HIV/AIDS in South Africa are changing for the better. “There was a real problem two or three years ago where journalists felt snowed under with information, but they were now starting to get to grips with HIV/AIDS,” Ansell said. She added that the problem now was with community publications and radio stations as they did not have access to information and resources. According to Stally, coverage of HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe has moved from sensationalised reporting in the ‘90s to more sensitive coverage with a greater understanding of the science of HIV/AIDS.

Stally went on to say that one of the biggest problems that journalists still had to face when reporting on HIV/AIDS, was dealing with editors who were not sensitive to the issue of HIV/AIDS. Newsrooms in Africa are male dominated and HIV/AIDS is seen as a “soft issue” and HIV/AIDS stories are given to female journalists. In many cultures, discussing sex is taboo and reporters also have to overcome these inhibitions when reporting on HIV/AIDS. Stally added that equipped with the proper training, journalists could play a strategic and positive role in controlling the AIDS epidemic.

Theme (s): Other,

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

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