HIV and AIDS: Those most affected are least heard

Date: January 1, 1970
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Findings of the HIV and AIDS and Gender Baseline Study looking at how the media in eleven Southern African countries cover the epidemic and its gender dimensions.

HIV and AIDS: Those most affected are least heard 

Johannesburg 3 May – HIV and AIDS in Southern Africa is under-reported, the voices of those most affected are least heard, and the gender dimensions of the pandemic are not well reflected, according to a study released here on World Press Freedom Day.

 The HIV and AIDS and Gender Baseline Study, conducted by Gender Links and the Media Monitoring Project covered 118 media houses in 11 SADC countries.
The study, which forms part of the Media Action Plan (MAP) on HIV and AIDS and Gender led by the Southern African Editors Forum (SAEF) monitored 37 001 news items over one month in 2005. It found that only 3% of all the items focused on, or mentioned, the pandemic. This varied from 19% in Lesotho, to only 1% in Mauritius and 2% in South Africa, which has the largest number of people living with HIV and AIDS globally, estimated at over 5 million,
People living with HIV and AIDS constituted a mere 4% of all sources, compared to 42% of government officials and officials representing international organisations. PLHIV were most often used as sources in Swaziland (10%), Tanzania (7%) and South Africa (6%). In Malawi, no PLHIV were used as sources in the period under review.
Despite the disproportionate burden of the pandemic borne by women, who constitute the highest proportion of those living with HIV as well as provide most of the care, women constitute only 39% of sources overall. Men’s voices dominate in all topic categories, except for care.
A break down of topics shows that the gender dimensions and major drivers of the pandemic are not well reported on. Although the bulk of the coverage (40%) centred on prevention, sexual power relations, mother to child transmission, intergenerational sex, gender based violence and cultural practices as sub-topics of prevention received limited coverage.
Care and support received a mere 16% of total coverage, reinforcing the general tendency in society to take women’s work for granted. Within this topic category, orphans and vulnerable children received the greatest attention, with home-based care (often a euphemism for the unwaged work of women) receiving only minimal mention.
In the area of treatment the media focus remains on ARVs (32%) and the medical aspects of AIDS (27%), with positive living, the role of nutrition, and where to go for help receiving only marginal mention.
The impact of the epidemic received a mere 5% of coverage, suggesting that HIV and AIDS continues to be viewed more as a health than development-related matter.
On the positive side, the report found that there have been a number of improvements in media reporting. These include fewer blatant stereotypes (10%) and increased sensitivity to language. Feature stories on HIV and AIDS are higher (10%) than in general coverage (5%) and that a high number of stories are original stories produced or added to by newsroom journalists.
The research showed that in Southern Africa, there are more women journalists reporting on HIV (45%) than in most other beats and in most instances women journalists were more likely to access female sources. This is an important argument for striving to achieve gender balance at all levels and in all beats of newsrooms, although the research also suggests that both women and men would benefit from gender awareness training.  
Building on these strengths, the next phase of MAP will be to provide assistance to media houses that elect to develop and implement HIV and AIDS and gender policies, based on a handbook and pilot projects conducted by Gender Links with the Times of Zambia, Kaya FM in South Africa and the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation.
Facilitators in each country will be working closely with MISA and SAEF chapters in the policy roll, with the aim of ensuring that 80% of newsrooms have HIV and AIDS and gender policies by 2008.   
The study on media reporting on HIV and AIDS was funded by SIDA and OSISA with some support from UNAIDS.
Media Resource Desk on HIV and AIDS and Gender launched to improve media reporting
To encourage more indepth and accurate media reporting on HIV and AIDS in Southern Africa, SAfAIDS and PlusNews today announced the launch of the Media Resource Desk.  
The Media Resource Desk is a one-stop shop for journalists and other media practitioners to access quick, accurate and user-friendly information on HIV and AIDS prevention, care, treatment and mitigation. The Media Resource Desk responds to the information needs of the journalists by producing appropriately packaged, ready- to- use information products and resources. These include fact sheets, weekly newsflashes on the latest HIV and AIDS developments and trends, up-to-date statistics and vocabulary for accurate reporting, a complete database of media practitioners in the region and with a wide collection of materials related to HIV and AIDS and the media.
The Media Resource Desk today released a CD-rom containing all the declarations and key policy documents relating to HIV and AIDS and Gender. This CD-Rom is intended to help journalists provide informed coverage of the AU Summit on HIV and AIDS to be held in Abuja, Nigeria on 4 May during which African Heads of State will review progress made with the implementation of the Abuja Declaration on HIV and AIDS. It will also ensure more informed reporting on the High Level Summit on HIV and AIDS in New York on 31 May, that will review progress made in meeting the targets set out in the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on HIV and AIDS in 2001. 
Note to the Editor:
The HIV and AIDS and Gender Media Baseline study and the Media Resource Desk on HIV and AIDS form part of the Media Action Plan on HIV and AIDS and Gender in Southern Africa. This regional plan aims to ensure a more coordinated response within the region to strengthen media reporting on HIV and AIDS and to ensure that the media industry is involved as an equal partner in these efforts.
MAP is being undertaken under the leadership of the Southern African Editors Forum and includes amongst others MISA, Gender Links, GEMSA, SAMTRAM, UN-IRINs PlusNews and the Media Monitoring Project in South Africa.  
Progress made in the implementation of the MAP over the past year includes the following:
  • Ethics – A regional consultation was held with editors and regulators where agreement was reached on 11 principles to guide media reporting on AIDS. The guidelines were printed in the form of a poster and leaflet and distributed throughout the region. 
  •  Workplace Policy and Programmes for media Institutions – A study was undertaken in 2005 this found that fewer than 10% of media organizations had workplace based policies in place, the majority of these were in South Africa and Zambia.
  • Information Resources for Media – The help desk has been established and includes a telephone helpline, website and electronic alerts for media in the region. 
  • Monitoring and Evaluation – A baseline survey has been undertaken covering 118 media institutions in the 11 SADC countries over a period of a month to look at media coverage on HIV and AIDS.
  • Coordination – SAEF has appointed a fulltime coordinator to coordinate the response the MAP process. 
Support for the MAP process comes from a variety of sources including: Swedish International Development Agency (SIDA), The Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), NIZA, SADC-DFID Project on HIV and AIDS and UNAIDS RST-ESA.

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