Midlands laments lack of access to drugs, Daily Mirror

Date: January 1, 1970
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This story focuses on the fact that while women in the Midlands Province of Zimbabwe, test for their HIV status and become involved in various support groups, they still lack access to treatment.

This article can be used to:
1. Demonstrate the importance of "voice."
2. Show the importnace of data
3. Show how language can perpetuate stereotypes.
Trainer’s notes: This article is about access to treatment for women living with HIV/AIDS. While the angle is a good one and the fact that women do face hurdles in getting treatment in the Midlands Province comes through in the voices of those interviewed, the language and lack of context and further information in the story tends to almost make ‘invisible’ the gender dimension of HIV/AIDS treatment.
Language: In terms of the language used, for example, the use of terms like “people”, “the poor”, “peer groups”, hides the fact that the majority of those most affected by lack of treatment are women. All of the sources representing “peer” groups in the Midlands areas reported on are women, but the journalist does not, either through the use of data or probing further the interviewees, take the opportunity to identify those most affected(women or men) and to explain ‘why’ a certain group is more vulnerable to lack of treatment. Within the story also is language that continues to perpetuate stigma and contribute to ‘harm’ reporting – i.e. which focuses on the harmful long-term effects of a disease – such as the term ‘the deadly virus’.
Use of data: Data on women and men living with HIV/AIDS in the province as well as data on women and men in need of treatment would have illustrated more poignantly the access to treatment issue in the Midlands. Also, it would have been important to add facts and figures on the situation nationwide to further illustrate the scope of the problem in this particular province. The story generally states that the province has one of the highest prevalence rates in the country, and that one of the towns in the Province, Zvishavane, has the highest prevalence in the country. No statistics are given to back-up either statement. There are no statistics on HIV/AIDS in general in Zimbabwe, and while the focus of the research is on Gender, HIV and AIDS and the law, the story provides no background information on the gender dimensions of the pandemic in Zimbabwe.

Sources: There is no gender balance of sources in this story. Because the story focuses on research by a women’s law organization, gender is equated with women and the reporter does not move outside of the voices that participated in the research (women) to interview men on the gender dimensions of access to treatment. All the sources in the story are women.

Headline: The headline used for this story does not quite capture the essence of what the story is about. If one reads the headline, before one reads the story, the impression is given that the story may be about medical officials in the province talking about a shortage of drugs in general. The headline does not capture the fact that the story is about access to treatment for HIV/AIDS. This, therefore, is an example of a headline which does not follow the general rule of headlines should reflect the essence of a story.

Discussion Questions
1. What data that is missing in the story. Discuss where participants could look for the data identified?
2. How could this report have been improved?
Training exercises:
1. Give students/participants a copy of the article. Ask them to write a new headline for the story. Discuss each headline presented in terms of whether it captures what the story is about, or if it distorts or misleads the reader.
2. The issue of data is a good opportunity for trainers/facilitators to also illustrate how the Internet can be a resourceful tool for journalists and editors. Have students/participants go out in the nearby area and ask them to interview women and men on access to treatment for HIV/AIDS. Develop together a question or set of questions that highlight the gender dimensions of treatment, such as: Who finds it most difficult to access treatment for HIV/AIDS? If those interviewed reply, ‘the poor’, for example, probe further to find out who make up the majority of the poor in the areas or communities they live in? Be sure that they interview an equal number of women and men on the questions developed. When they return, discuss the replies together and re-look at the article on access to treatment in the Midlands. Ask students/participants to highlight, from their interviews, how the voices of women and men would have added more depth, and insight into the angle of the story on access to treatment.

Links to other training resources: Gender and HIV/AIDS, A Training Manual for Southern African Media and Communicators, published by Gender Links and AIDS Law Project 2004, chapter 11 www.genderlinks.org.za/docs/training/hiv-training-manual/hiv-ch11.pdf

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