Unicef to import ARVs for NAC, The Herald

Date: January 1, 1970
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This story is about an agreement between the National AIDS Council (NAC) and the United Nations Children?s Fund (UNICEF) to increase the volume of anti-retroviral drugs available in Zimbabwe.

This article may be used to:
1. Prompt discussion around access to ARVs.
2. Demonstrate how voices can be missing from well-intentioned reporting.
2. Show how stories can miss importnat information.
Trainer’s notes:
Sex-disaggregated data: The gender dimensions of many issues often become invisible in news reporting, because of journalists’ failure to use sex-disaggregated data. Data, used in context, helps the reader to further understand the urgency and/or consequences of an event or issue, and when the data refers to people, it helps readers to see who is affected. In this story, the data provided on the numbers who have access to ARVs in Zimbabwe, and those who still require treatment, is gender blind, thereby making invisible the differences and problems confronted in women’s and men’s access to treatment. The story says that only 16,000 of the 300,000 people in “urgent” need have access to ARVs in Zimbabwe. The journalist could have gone further to find out how many women comprise the 16,000, as well as how many women comprise the 300,000.  In Zimbabwe, like many countries in Southern Africa, women comprise the majority of those infected, and young women are three to six times more likely to be infected according to various national and regional studies on HIV prevalence in the country. This data illustrates that any reporting on HIV/AIDS in the country cannot ignore the gender dimensions of the pandemic. If women are the majority of those living with the virus and perhaps in need of treatment, it is crucial in reporting that journalists ask for data to be disaggregated by sex to ascertain whether women and girls are indeed receiving the treatment available. By not doing so, as is the case in this story, the issue becomes gender blind and also illustrates how the media falls short in its role of informing and educating the public on critical issues.
Sources: There are only two sources in this news story – the Executive Director of NAC (male) and a programme officer for an HIV/AIDS support group (female). Both sources illustrate how the media often relies on those in positions of power or some form of authority to ‘speak on behalf of others’. The female voice does represent someone impacted by the issue reported on, but the reporter, even in a news story, could have interviewed more women and men living with HIV on the need for, availability of and affordability of treatment and the consequences on their lives. This approach, along with the use of sex disaggregated data, would have lifted the story from just a ‘news’ report on an event – i.e. the agreement between NAC and UNICEF to import more ARVs – to a news story that highlights the impact of the issue on people’s lives, which heightens the story’s context and relevance.
Basic reporting (Unanswered questions): There are a few elements of basic reporting missing from this story. The first question that remains unanswered is ‘why’ was UNICEF approached and chosen by NAC to assist with the importation of ARVs? This is important to know, because nowhere does it indicate in the story that these drugs are imported for children living with HIV/AIDS, and the story does not link this move to UNICEF’s mandate on children or activities around HIV/AIDS for children. The second unanswered question is ‘why’ the Tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS unit within the Ministry of Health and Child Welfare is no longer handling the importation of drugs? The story also does not provide any background or information on other sources of funding and avenues for the importation of ARVs in the country? Is this agreement the only route of procurement? In addition to the manufacturing of generic drugs by Varichem (locally), what are other sources for ARVs for those needing treatment in Zimbabwe, especially if Varichem does not produce enough to meet the need?
Another set of unanswered questions: How much will $30 billion buy (not clear if this is Zim or US dollars)? How long will this supply of drugs last and how many people can be treated? All of these unanswered questions make this an incomplete story leaving the reader with partial information that is not put into a context so that the reader has a clear picture of the ARV situation in the country and why this particular agreement is indeed ‘news’. These gaps illustrate a weakness in basic news reporting.
Discussion Questions:
1. Are there unanswered questions in this story? If so what ?
2. Are there any missing perspectives, if so, who ?
3. What are the gender dimensions of access to ARVs?
Training exercises:
1. Encourage students/participants to get in the habit of looking for sex-disaggregated data by giving asking them to do the following assignment: provide sex-disaggregated data on the following and provide the sources/references of where the data was found:
a)       country’s population
b)       HIV prevalence rates
c)       Numbers of people on ARV treatment
d)       Numbers of people in need of treatment
e)       Percentage of population in formal employment
f)         Percentage of population in informal employment
g)       Information on where and how people access ARV treatment.
2. Ask students/participants to move outside of the classroom/workshop to the nearby surroundings to interview women and men using the question:
– Do women and men living with HIV/AIDS have equal access to ARV treatment? Is yes, how and give examples. If no, why not?
When students/participants return with their notes, divide them into three groups to discuss their findings from the interviews. Each group should then report back on how a variety of voices and perspectives from women and men would have strengthened the angle of the case study, and why ‘gender blind’ reporting is professionally weak?
3. Divide students/participants into groups. Give students/participants a copy of the case study to read. Ask each group to identify unanswered questions in the news story which make it weak.  Then ask the students/participants to indicate how they would gather the information to fill the gaps in the story – where would they go? Who would they interview? Other stories on HIV/AIDS and/or gender in the media may also be used to reflect on gaps in reporting.
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 4, www.genderlinks.org.za/docs/training/hiv-training-manual/hiv-ch4.pdf chapter 11 www.genderlinks.org.za/docs/training/hiv-training-manual/hiv-ch11.pdf

Gender in Media Training, a Southern African Tool Kit, edited by Colleen Lowe Morna, Gender Links, Johannesburg, 2002.

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