Journalists to ensure children are placed at centre of HIV/AIDS news coverage
Maputo, 9 December 2005- More than 30 media professionals including managers, editors and senior journalists from radio, television and print media committed themselves to make the fight against HIV/AIDS and its impact on children a priority in their editorial policies. The commitment was expressed during a workshop with partners, government institutions, UNICEF and other UN agencies (UNDP, WFP) to debate the role of the media in Mozambique in the campaign “Unite for Children. Unite against AIDS.”
The workshop took place in Bilene and Xai-Xai, districts of Gaza Province, on 5 and 6 December respectively. The event was jointly organised by UNICEF and the National AIDS Council (CNCS). A wide range of media professionals from public, private and religious radio, television and print media attended the debates which were also stimulated by the active participation of some key partners such as Save the Children Alliance, World Vision, and representatives from organizations for children (“Continuadores” and “Rede da Criança” and association of people living with HIV/AIDS (Kuvumbana) , among others.
By taking a leading role in the sessions based on the four pillars of the campaign, key partners showed a strong commitment to raising awareness within the media of the need to place children at the centre of HIV/AIDS interventions. Among the participants who spoke on prevention among young people, prevention of mother to child transmission, paediatric treatment and protection, care and support of orphans and vulnerable children, were the President of National Youth Council, a representative from the Ministry of Health, the Director of the Paediatric Day Hospital in Maputo (also the national focal point for paediatric treatment) and the National Director for Social Action, respectively. CNCS representatives briefed media professionals about the draft Communication Strategy for the National Strategic Plan for HIV/AIDS (PEN II).
The need to invite media professionals and a number of partners for an open debate on the role of the media follows a UNICEF assessment of media coverage about the impact of HIV/AIDS on children during the first semester of 2005. The results show that children were not placed at the centre of media coverage of HIV/AIDS related issues and some programmatic areas such as paediatric treatment and prevention of mother to child transmission were not receiving the same attention as issues related to orphaned and vulnerable children and prevention among young people. However, some of the major debates focused on the need to turn media professionals into proactive partners in the advocacy campaign. This resulted in the drafting of the “Declaration of Bilene” which states the commitment of the media in Mozambique.
On the second day several field visits were organised to Xai-Xai district in order to gain firsthand experience of the reality faced by children affected by HIV/AIDS and ongoing responses to the pandemic. Xai-Xai district was selected because of its high prevalence rate (19.9%) and because it provides good examples of integrated approaches to the four programmatic areas of the campaign.
Under the guidance of a group of activists from KUVUMBANA, an association of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) in Gaza Province, a broad range of media professionals joined a round of home visits to children who had been orphaned and made vulnerable due to HIV/AIDS. The participants had the opportunity to witness the devastating situation of several children in child headed households who have to look after younger siblings with little support from other relatives or their own communities. Signs of hope and commitment to fighting the disease could be taken from the example of a twelve year old orphaned boy receiving ARV treatment, who regularly goes to the nearest Day Hospital for medication and medical examinations on his own accord.
Guided visits also took place in the Paediatric Day Hospital and Health Centre in the city of Xai-Xai . The medical staff made themselves available for detailed briefings and interviews on current programmes on prevention among young people, prevention of mother to child transmission and paediatric treatment supported by UNICEF and several partners. The visits were a good opportunity for the media to realise the urgent need to advocate for a scale up in the response to HIV/AIDS and resource mobilisation.
This workshop was a firm step forward to building strong partnerships with the media for the implementation of the plan of action and advocacy strategy for the campaign “Unite for Children. Unite against AIDS”.