Role of Media
An effective media can raise the awareness level and can also bring about sustainable behavior change thereby reducing vulnerability to the virus. Media is capable of performing the following roles in preventing HIV/AIDS:
A Channel for communication and Discussion:
One of the roles of Media is to open the channels for communication and foster discussions about HIV and interpersonal relations. Addressing HIV/AIDS in the entertainment programs can have an enormous impact on the society at risk.
A vehicle for creating a supportive and enabling environment:
Mass media can be instrumental in breaking the silence that envelopes the disease and in creating an encouraging behavior for combating with existing social norms and making positive changes in the society. For example, the Indian village, Lutsaan, turned its back on the dowry system after listening communally to Radio soap opera Tinka Tinka Sukh (Little steps for better life) aired on All India radio.
Facilitator for removing Stigma and discrimination attached with the disease:
HIV/AIDS afflicted individuals besides the anatomical discomforts undergo the mental suffering of stigma and discrimination at the hands of the society. A number of media campaigns have focused on the need
To overcome prejudice and encourage solidarity with people infected/ affected by virus. WHO has various extraordinary stories of HIV people who are not only fighting the virus but are also playing an integral role in prevention of AIDS.
A tool for creating a knowledge base for HIV/AIDS related services :
The collaborative efforts of all modes of media in association with NGOs State organizations, service providers have brought to the lime light the availability and source of beneficial services like counseling, testing and condom provisions, treatment and social care.
The broadcasters and print media have a specific role to play as their efforts have tremendous recall value. For instance, The Kaiser Family foundation in partnership with media companies have promoted f dedicated toll free hotlines and has launched we-sites for educating the people about the HIV/AIDS.
Education through entertainment:
For creating an efficacious awareness about HIV/AIDS, the messages need to be informative, educative as well as entertaining as these are mutually exclusive. For instance, in 2002, Doordarshan, NACO and BBC world Service Trust joined hands in order to launch the country mass media awareness programme about HIV/AIDS.
The campaign was launched with an idea of spreading education in a more entertaining way with a popular interactive detective series Jasoos(Detective) Vijay, and a reality youth show “Haath se Haath Milaa’i”, which had won the prestigious Indian Television Awards, 2003.
In November 2005, BBC World service Trust in association with Doordarshan and NACO were running India’s largest HIV/AIDS awareness mass media campaign. In an interview Richard Gere, AIDS activist, Actor admitted that most public service announcements are unsuccessful as they are not entertaining.
The education of HIV/AIDS has to be spread as if we are selling the product. Thus, a holistic approach for dealing with the emotional psychological and physical realities is to be adopted.
The Heroes Project is a public education initiative launched by Richard Gere and Parmeshwar Godrej to work with Indian media companies and leaders to develop coordinated public education campaigns on HIV/AIDS.
It is supported with a grant from the Avahan Initiative of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation which provide technical and substantive expertise to the project.
Heros project which hosts HIV/AIDS awareness show with SUN TV creates a mega platform, bringing together the South Indian Entertainment fraternity in an effort to draw public attention to the issues of HIV/AIDS.
Even Star Celebrities are playing an important role. An Actress, Prachi Rathore, has been awarded with Special Max Stardust award, 2005 for her contribution towards creating awareness about HIV/AIDS in Rajasthan. Movies like “My Brother Nikil” and “Phir Milengei” are an attempt in educating people with entertainment.
Broadcasters are mainstreaming the HIY issue across a number of programs, ensuring that the message permeates a diverse range of output, not just outlets and public service messages dedicated specifically to the issue.
The fact that virus affects all sections of the society is reinforced in such a way that many people who might not pay attention to a traditional AIDS campaign or who do not choose to watch AIDS programming, are exposed to HIV/AIDS messages.
A coordinated, multifaceted campaign has greater impact than a single programme. Documentaries, New Items, concerts, public service announcements, competitions, hotlines, books and websites can be linked together to reinforce awareness, information and messages about HIV related attitude and behavior.
Putting HIV/AIDS on the News agenda and encouraging leaders to participate: In recent years several leading broadcasters from around the world have found innovative ways to report on the epidemic.
The more the leaders see about HIV in news the greater the resource they invest in anti-AIDS strategies, which in turn leads to increased media coverage of the issue and helps to sustain public awareness which again has an impact on leaders’priorities.
Sharing resources ad pooling material:
Several campaigns were successful as they fully utilized the opportunity of pooling the available resources with others by sharing expertise and material. As a part of the campaign the trust produced weekly, youth focused reality Television show Haath se Haath Milaa wherein the yuva stars traveled across the country to spread awareness about HIV/AIDS.
Capacity Building :
Successful partnerships need not be with other media outlets. Alliances of NGO, Government departments and foundations can bring significant benefit for both the parties.
For instance , as a .result of the KNOW HIV/AIDS partnership, the Kaiser Family Foundation have offered the broadcasters expertise in terms of pinpointing key messages, giving up to date information and building HIV Knowledge with creative media teams.
Media as an institution of oversight, restraint and collaborative efforts :
Media can render yeoman service in providing accurate and correct news coverage of HIV/AID facilitate eliciting and generating public response to state sponsored efforts.
Such efforts have the potentials to awaken social and political leaders to review their strategies and take mid course corrections in regard to policy concerning AIDS/HIV.
In such a process, the media has the potential to influence public opinion and attitudes about HIV/AIDS, including attitudes towards people living with HIV/AIDS. An analysis of media coverage and public opinion over several decades concluded that there is a strong relationship between them. When the media focuses on a particular issue, there is a higher degree of public awareness and support to tackle that issue.
Attitudes affect how people respond to HIV/AIDS and how people with HIV/AIDS are treated or cared for by their peers, employers, families, communities, the health care system and the justice dispensing system.
Media too have the capability to bring about transformation in the thinking pattern of the society in respect of PLWAHA and thus sowing the seeds of attitudinal changes.
The media can be a great facilitator for preventing process while imparting the need for a healthy behavior towards the section of the society and those individuals most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and those individuals affected by it.