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Exposing HIV and AIDS


The media plays a valuable role fighting the HIV and AIDS epidemic by informing the public and making sure that information is accurate and easily accessible. Media need to continue to rise to the challenge and promote awareness. HIV pushes all the news buttons. It is a health emergency which has scientific, religious and political elements.
There are people out there with stories to tell; stories that can raise awareness and understanding. These stories need to be told. There are community doctors who fight the epidemic, scientists and researchers who search endlessly for treatments and nurses who care for the sick and dying. There are community groups out there who suffer and people who live with HIV. There is so much out there that needs to be identified and journalists can tell these stories. The media can help to expose the true importance of the topic.
To fully understand the seriousness of the issue, the issue itself must first be understood. HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. It destroys blood cells, which are crucial to the function of the immune system and help to defend the body against illness. When the immune system has been compromised by HIV, a person develops a range of illnesses. These include cancers and viral, bacterial, fungal and parasitic infections. HIV is the virus that can cause AIDS.
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or AIDS, is a field of conditions that occur when one’s immune system has been damaged after years of attack by HIV.
HIV is transmitted through blood transfusions, breastfeeding or sex. It is the exchange of bodily fluids that can transmit HIV. However, it cannot spread via saliva, sweat, tears, vomit or urine. It does not survive well outside of the body so while these fluids can contain small amounts of HIV, they have not been found to transmit the disease.
These are the basic facts. These are the things that people should know and information like this is widely available. But there are so many things that stay hidden, especially to people in countries that lack the resources that we have.
Today, 8000 people will lose their lives to HIV/AIDS and another 14,000 – ten people every minute - will become newly infected. In 2010, HIV/AIDS killed 1.8 million people worldwide. 1.2 million of these people were living in sub-Saharan Africa. In Kenya alone, AIDS has orphaned an estimated 1.2 million children.
Around 360,000 children in sub-Saharan Africa became infected with HIV in 2010. The vast majority of these children became victim to the virus during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding as a result of their mother carrying the virus.
Some of those who are highly at risk are young women aged between 15 and 24. Many of these women know little or nothing about the prevention of HIV and do not know ways to avoid it. On the other hand, some women may be aware of what they can do to protect themselves but lack of freedom and power means that they are unable to take precautions. Many women are also forced to find employment as sex workers so that they can earn an income. Gender inequality is a great contributing factor.
Rape is also often a reality. A study has shown that this was the case for nearly 50% of young women across nine Caribbean countries. Children and babies are sometimes infected because of belief in common myths. A very major misconception is that having sex with a virgin will cure you of HIV. Without proper education available to some areas, these myths are thought to be true and the disease is spread further.
There are a number of things that the media can do to help stem HIV/AIDS and many organisations are already dedicated and engaged to raise awareness and promote sustainable behaviour. One of the most obvious roles of the media is to open pathways of communication and discussion about HIV and relationships. Addressing the issue of HIV/AIDS can have an enormous impact on a society at risk. Media can help to break the silence that surrounds the issue and media interventions can create positive changes in society.
If the media can put HIV/AIDS on the news agenda it encourages leaders to take action. Governments in countries at highest risk have the power to make significant changes. By exposing facts, statistics and information we can educate and spread the word about HIV/AIDS. Media is everywhere and if journalists report honestly and truthfully on matters like these then we have the power of change.

"Trust me, I'm a journalist."


There is common controversy on the topic of public trust in the media. The public relies on journalists to relay information and news for private and educational purposes. But is the media reliable? The argument that there is no longer a secure trust in the media has arisen this week at the Fiji Pacific Media Summit.
Research shows that only 32% of the Australian public trusts the media, compared to a global average of 49%. Only the USA and U.K had lower media trust than Australia. Events such as the News International phone hacking scandal (announced in June 2011) decreased trust in the media even more. According to a PBS and YouGov study in the United Kingdom, 58% of adults say that their trust in their country’s media has been reduced.
We all have the freedom of speech. Should this belong to the individual or the institution? Every individual has the right to an individual opinion, but this opinion could be swayed by the words and images of the media that they are exposed to.
It is the responsibility of the media to communicate the raw facts from both sides of a story in order to give the public a chance to develop their own opinion.
There is a difference between news and opinion and these need to be kept very separate. The media plays a huge role in public relations and the way that citizens view events and the government. What the media see is what the public also sees and what the media ignores is very often ignored by the general public.
Ethics also come into this argument. Should it just be those who work in the field of media who get a say or should the general public have more of a voice? More talk back radio, polls and surveys give people the opportunity to think about their own opinion and voice it.
Different media organisations take different points on events which lead to a greater variety of views, but it also creates tension between the media. The battle is made public through content and consumers are left to sit in the midst of the controversy and confusion. This is why confidence is lacking and will continue to do so unless things change.
Cultural barriers form a wall in the media. Foreign journalists who travel and report on countries like Fiji are often lacking understanding of the cultures and traditions of the people, and may therefore fail to draw accurate conclusions. More money needs to be invested in local media so that local organisations can report on events in their areas and be aware of the cultural context of their story.
News rooms should invest more in investigation and access to information so that the media can capture more depth in the issues that they are reporting on. While the details of an event are important, the context is equally so.
The media needs to take the lead to improve the public impression of trust and reliability. This means rethinking what they do and how they report on matters. We need to take pride in our work and near enough just isn’t good enough. While the factual content of the news remains the same, we must allow room for the public to develop their own opinions. You can be a good writer but that does not mean that you are a good journalist. The public should be critical of the media and their expectations should be high. The media is important and there needs to be a global trust.

My Bio

Hey! I'm Courtney :) So far I have loved every moment of The Reporters' Academy! I am interested in different aspects of the media. Writing, photography, video production... I am from Melbourne and I swim competitively. I love sport and am excited that this is such a big focus in The Reporters' Academy. The recent TRA trip to Fiji definitely inspired me and and it's difficult to put into words how much I learned. The experience that I have come home with is incredible. I am so glad to be a part of the Reporters' Academy and am excited about everything that it has to offer and also what I can offer it now and in the future. Thanks for reading! :)