Ujjwala Jatkar, Director – Training CDL
"Give a future to your yet to be born child"
"HIV: Not a barrier to motherhood"
"Do not nurture any doubt. HIV does not transmit through breast feeding".
These are headlines of recent articles in leading newspapers of Karnataka. They reflect efforts to go beyond the basic facts about HIV and to cover complex issues like Paediatric AIDS and Prevention of Parent to Child Transmission (PPTCT).
They also mark a considerable change in the coverage of HIV/AIDS over the last few years. Media research by Communication for Development and Learning (CDL) in 2005 showed there were very few efforts then to cover such issues.
One of the factors that led to this change is the conscious effort by CDL in a UNICEF supported project titled ‘HIV/AIDS Journalism’. The project aimed to sensitise journalists on HIV/AIDS and build their capacities to write in an informed, sensitive and responsible manner.
Under this project, media orientation programmes were conducted to build basic understanding of the issues involved. Since ‘prevention’ is the only key to control spread of HIV/AIDS, the project stressed the special role of the media in creating awareness among the general public. The programme helped journalists to look at HIV/AIDS beyond the health dimension and brought its human face to the fore, addressing issues like stigma and discrimination..
The advanced training programme that followed,, was designed to address issues like Paediatric AIDS and PPTCT since there is a major increase in the number of women vulnerable to HIV infection, resulting in high parent to child transmission of HIV.
CDL drew from the knowledge and experience of organizations like KSAPS, KNP+ and other NGOs, making the programmes interesting, inspiring and user-friendly for the Kannada journalists.
A field visit to a PPTCT center, a fact file with detailed statistics and information on HIV/AIDS, website details and contact information of NGOs working in the sector were part of the project inputs.
Copies of the Kannada manual titled ‘Journalist as Catalysts’ , published by UNDP were distributed to the participants to familiarize them with sensitive terminology accepted for reporting on HIV/AIDS.. At the culmination of the programme, the two best features written, were given awards.
A direct result of the project was the media coverage that followed. A very significant outcome is the formation of a group of journalists who have developed an interest in the issue and understood their responsibilites related to its coverage. And if journalists are playing catalysts,, the days of, informed, sensitive and responsible journalism on HIV/AIDS in language papers are not too far.