SOUTHEAST ASIA: Media 'miss point' in their coverage

Prasada Rao from the UNAIDS regional support team says media should focus on high-risk groups and increase publicity geared toward them

Bangkok Post
Monday, August 10, 2009

By Achara Ashayagachat

Bali --- Media outlets covering HIV should be talking to victims and looking at efforts to find a cure rather than dwelling on sensationalism, a seminar here has been told.

Prasada Rao, from the regional support team of the United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/Aids, yesterday said 50 million women in Asia are at risk of contracting HIV.

They are women living with men having sex with other men or women living with other female partners.

The media should focus its efforts on these groups, as they were most at risk, and increased publicity could help them stay safe.

Mr Rao was speaking at the 9th International Congress on Aids in the Asia-Pacific which opened yesterday in Bali, Indonesia.

He said the media should work with religious leaders and politicians to publicise the issue.

Geeta Sethi, the Asia-Pacific Leadership Forum on HIV/Aids and Development manager, said journalists should use terminology more sensitively to describe stigmatised groups such as HIV-positive women and men having sex with men. Media consumers seldom hear personal perspectives on HIV, such as how the children of HIV-positive parents are affected.

Australian journalism professor Trevor Cullen said HIV was regarded mainly as a health and emergency problem, and when the sensation died down, so, too, did the interest in how to find a solution.