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Children and the media

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HIV, AIDS and the media

The particular vulnerability of young people to HIV/AIDS makes it one of the most important health issues for the media to tackle. Media programmes can offer an ideal vehicle for bypassing social taboos which may hinder frank discussion of sexual practices - conveying images of AIDS, promoting informed discussion, dispelling false information, and playing a crucial role in helping to reduce the level of HIV/AIDS among young people.

In Zambia, 100 people a day are dying of HIV/AIDS. Research indicated that a large percentage of Zambian young people were having unprotected sex. At the same time, the young people interviewed expressed a need for information that was current and more accessible. The response was the youth mass media campaign, Helping Each Other Responsibly Together (HEART), which AIDS specialists believe is responsible for the recent reduction in the HIV rate among the country's young people. The campaign was particularly effective because it was planned and implemented by young people.

Around the world, innovative projects are being launched in an attempt to harness the power of the media to help prevent the spread of AIDS. This requires careful preparation as insensitive programming can reinforce stereotypes and provoke fear. It is vital that the efforts of media professionals should be as comprehensive as possible. Do the programmes/publications respond to the cultural needs of the target audience? Do they offer suggestions and provide contact details about where to seek personal support? Are partnerships between health workers or other groups in society highlighted in the initiative? Do they promote healthy and responsible behaviour as opposed to sanctioning or criticising the sexual behaviour of young people? Are role models used successfully to encourage safe behaviour?

UNICEF campaign 'Unite for children, unite against AIDS"

Help make the campaign video




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