Getting the message across: the mass media and the response to AIDS
UNAIDS BEST PRACTICE COLLECTION. Because of their central position in people’s lives, the mass media have unrivalled potential to inform and educate the general public. Yet in the response to AIDS only a tiny fraction of that potential has been tapped. In surveys around the world, radio and television are cited as key sources of information about AIDS by large numbers of people. But although there are examples of imaginative and highly successful campaigns, by and large, media coverage of the epidemic is not sufficient to keep the public well informed.
There are still millions of people who have never heard of AIDS, and many more who harbour serious misconceptions about the disease. UNAIDS has been encouraging greater involvement of the mass media in responding to the epidemic. It recently produced a report, The Media and HIV/AIDS: Making a difference, which highlights the many ways in which media organizations can make an impact.
Besides offering channels for the communication of public health information and messages, the media can, for example: stimulate and lead open and frank discussion of HIV and AIDS; provide a platform for those most affected by the epidemic to air their concerns and views, especially people living with the virus; challenge stigma and discrimination by providing accurate information about HIV and AIDS, and positive images and role models of infected and affected people; encourage leaders to take action, and keep policy-makers and service providers on their toes; help create an enabling environment for prevention of HIV infection, and a supportive environment for the care of people living with the virus; take steps to give the epidemic the attention it deserves on the news agenda, and to prevent “AIDS fatigue” or complacency from allowing this attention to slip; build capacity through partnerships that allow for the sharing and transfer of skills and expertise with others.
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