African journalists discuss news coverage of HIV and AIDS
Maputo, 3 May 2006- Several journalists from Portuguese speaking countries of Africa, in addition to Portugal and Brazil, met in Namaacha, 80 kilometers from the capital of Mozambique, to attend a workshop on news coverage of HIV and AIDS in these countries. Located on the border, Namaacha is known as the corridor linking Mozambique to Swaziland, the country with the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rates in southern Africa.
The event took place from 24 to 27 April and was organized by PlusNews, with the collaboration of UNICEF, the non-governmental organization Médicos do Mundo Portugal, the National AIDS Council of Mozambique and several other partners involved in the response to the pandemic.
PlusNews is an e-mail and internet-based HIV/AIDS information service for sub-Saharan Africa set up in 2001 by the Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN). IRIN is a news service that forms part of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Through organizing the workshop, the PlusNews service aimed at improving and harmonizing the quality of news on HIV and AIDS provided by its correspondents from Portuguese speaking countries of Africa. During the event the participants had the opportunity to share and discuss reporting experiences from their own countries. One of the debates was around the communication strategy for the National Strategic Plan to combat HIV and AIDS in Mozambique, presented by the National AIDS Council. “Our colleagues had the chance to see how journalists and the people of Mozambique are concerned with the pandemic” said Filipe Germano from the Public Television of Mozambique in Zambézia Province.
The workshop also provided a detailed session on anti-retroviral treatment and several practical training sessions on PlusNews reporting style. “If we adopt the PlusNews style in our daily work as reporters we will meet the goals in the combat against AIDS. We need to bring positive stories that will contribute to a change in people’s behavior” commented Germano after the workshop.
To gain first hand experience into real situations, participants were invited to join site visits to several projects on HIV/AIDS in Namaacha. Under the hot sun, one of the groups climbed the rocky hills of Namaacha for half an hour, following a labyrinth of narrow paths to reach an elderly headed household. The group got lost several times and had to rely on kind guidance from the community to find the right track. The journey was an example of the weekly routine of Fulgência, the nurse who works with Médicos do Mundo Portugal providing home-based care to families affected and infected by HIV and AIDS.
In a small, stone house, hidden in the middle of dozens of similar houses spread along the hillside, the group of journalists met Ana, a grandmother living with her seven orphaned grandchildren. They had lost both parents to AIDS. One of the children is also infected with HIV. Their original house was completely destroyed by a fierce storm. The family is now in a temporary accommodation thanks to the generosity of a member of the local church who lent them the house until they find a new one. Food support has been provided by World Food Programme in addition to home based care from Médicos do Mundo Portugal. Participants had the opportunity to interview the family as part of their training.
Before the site visit, UNICEF provided a training session on how to interview and report on children and AIDS. This topic was new for a significant number of participants and raised lengthy debates: “I could not imagine that there were so many precautions we were not taking into account when reporting on children and AIDS. We should always ask beforehand if the portrayed child would like to be exposed,” said Amad Sadique, sports editor from Diário de Moçambique, the second main daily newspaper in Mozambique, based in Beira, capital of Sofala Province. “When writing the stories I need to think about the possible impacts and benefits for the children,” added Belchion Lucas. He is a journalist working with community radios and television in Nampula Province.
With the collaboration of the National Union of Journalists, UNICEF supported the participation of four journalists who came from Nampula, Niassa, Sofala and Zambézia provinces. They are now going to collaborate with PlusNews on a regular basis and to share the outcomes of the workshop in their respective provinces. “I have been running a programme in Rádio Moçambique focusing on women in society. Now I’m planning to include prevention of mother to child transmission issues in the next editions”, said Nélia Nicua, from Niassa Province, after the seminar. Similarly, Belchion pointed out his plans for the near future: “after this training I expect to write more and more about children affected and infected by HIV and AIDS. I need to help raise the voice of the children".