Media holds the key to tackling HIV Stigma

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Stigma continues to prevent people living with HIV from seeking treatment and, while the media has a crucial role to challenge such prejudice, there is a residual fatigue in their response to the global HIV epidemic, a new report has found.

The report “HIV and Stigma: The Media Challenge”, by the International Broadcasting Trust (IBT) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) was launched today at the House of Commons by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on HIV and AIDS.

Despite progress made in the global response to HIV, stigma continues to be a major factor hindering HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, and affecting the overall health and well-being of people living with HIV.

The media plays an important role in influencing people’s attitudes towards HIV, yet it is far from reaching its full potential. “HIV and Stigma: The Media Challenge”, provides an overview of media initiatives seeking the reduction of HIV-related stigma with a case study from Swaziland, a country with the highest prevalence of people living with HIV in the world.

Pamela Nash MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on HIV and AIDS, said: “For too long stigma has stood in the way of people accessing life-saving treatment, not just in the developing world but here in the UK too. The media has an important role to play in challenging antiquated and discriminatory ideas which do nothing to stem the continued spread of HIV. If we can overcome stigma, there is nothing to stop us from ending the epidemic once and for all.”

IPPF Director General, Tewodros Melesse spoke of the findings on HIV-related stigma, “Stigma begins and ends with each one of us. The combination of ignorance, prejudice and fear creates fertile ground for the continued spread of HIV. Openness, acceptance and accessible information to challenge stigma and support people to access sexual and reproductive health and HIV services is the key to its reduction.”

Sophie Chalk, author of the report and IBT’s Director of Campaigns spoke of the impact of media fatigue, ”It was clear from interviewing people – journalists, production companies and NGOs – around the world that it is very difficult to get stories in the press or on air about HIV nowadays. It’s only the most sensational stories which make it into the news and these are mostly negative against people living with HIV. It seems there is a lack of interest among editors and those who control media output because they believe the public aren’t interested in HIV any more – it is no longer a story. Some interviewees suggested this could lead to higher incidence rates in due course which is a real concern. “

Key findings from the report:

  • Media projects aiming to reduce HIV- related stigma should be evidence based, researched and targeted.
  • Greater focus on media for and about key populations at higher risk of HIV exposure.
  • More effective use of media to engage decision makers and influencers.
  • Journalists will benefit from any opportunities which help them to access more human interest stories.
  • More effort to improve the tone of factual content so it engages rather than lectures audiences.
  • More role models should be featured in the media for people living with HIV to follow and aspire to.

 The report “HIV and Stigma: The Media Challenge”, can be found on www.ibt.org.uk/reports/hiv-stigma/ and www.ippf.org/resource/HIV-and-Stigma-Media-Challenge

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