HomeOpinion & AnalysisColumnistsMedia should have policy on HIV, Aids coverage

Media should have policy on HIV, Aids coverage

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The much-talked-about economic turnaround and overall development will not happen if Zimbabwe does not address the key drivers of the HIV pandemic that is ravaging in women and girls.

Some of the key drivers include the practice of concurrent sexual partners and the “small house” phenomenon which is so common in this country.

The unequal social and economic power relations are also a key driver of the pandemic particularly among married women who cannot negotiate for safer sex.

Of the 1 531 000 people that were living with HIV and Aids in 2009, nearly 617 800 were women.

And although there has been a significant reduction in HIV prevalence and incidence, women and girls continue be affected.

Most women living with HIV acquired the condition at least 5-7 years earlier than males.

This sad scenario calls for a concerted effort by all stakeholders to come up with strategies that can fight this disease.

However the media has been identified as having more power to change attitudes through coverage that can reach to all classes of people.

The media has a key role to play in initiatives that are aimed at reducing incidence and prevalence of HIV and Aids, and this would be a major contribution in the alleviation of the impact of HIV and Aids within the most vulnerable groups.

But for the media to be effective in this regard there is need for clarity on issues surrounding this pandemic.

It is also imperative that all media houses develop policies around coverage of HIV and Aids.

There is apparently no media house in Zimbabwe at the moment that has a policy on media coverage of HIV and Aids, a situation that could just reverse gains that had been realised in curbing the pandemic.

A media policy around those issues would provide a guide and roadmap for covering issues and news events, and to set the tone and character of the kinds of coverage issues that are important to media institutions.

This policy would compel editors to commit to doing something meaningful to eradicate this menace which has decimated the most active members of our communities.

Stigma still remains a greater hindrance to treatment as those afflicted suffer in silence.

A recent Kadoma workshop that drew editors from all media organisations reiterated the need to continuously remind each other about the need to mainstream gender, HIV and Aids if Zimbabwe is serious about combating spread.

HIV has threatened the global human existence and Zimbabwe’s economic and social development.

The media too has not been spared by this pandemic.

Reports from the National Aids Council (Nac) have revealed that journalists actually fall in the group of people that are most vulnerable and for as long as there are no policies in place, stigmatisation will continue unabated.

Sadly however, research by Nac has revealed that there has been a very low uptake of the female condom when compared to the male condom.

This is a challenge to media institutions that should find out the reason why this is happening.

As we celebrate World Aids Day, this should also be a reminder that editors are in a powerful position to provide space, resources and to stimulate and motivate reporting on HIV and Aids.

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