Notes to broadcasters on World AIDS Day

    | November 26, 2012

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    We hope that you found this week’s news stories inspiring – perhaps both personally and professionally. Our story from Comoros reminds us of the power of radio to change people’s attitudes, and to sometimes even encourage them to take decisions as important as getting an HIV test.
    Our stories from Congo-Brazzaville and Malawi are profiles of the enduring human spirit. They demonstrate that with perseverance, support, and ingenuity, people can overcome challenges as overwhelming as being evicted from family land or coping with a diminished capacity to work.
    What sorts of programs has your radio station broadcast on the topic of HIV and people living with HIV and AIDS? Are you planning any special programming for World AIDS Day on December 1st? Please join us at Barza – Farm Radio International’s social media site for African broadcasters – to talk about your programs and hear what other stations are doing. (If you’re not yet a Barza user, registration is free and only takes a moment at:
    The following section provides advice and ideas on creating programs that deal with HIV and AIDS, and important messages that your programs can pass on.

    Program planning

    -Involve people living with HIV and AIDS in your broadcasts. Encourage them to tell their stories on the radio. Withhold their identity if they prefer to remain anonymous.
    -Remember that the media can stigmatize people living with HIV and AIDS, and try to avoid this pitfall. For example, radio has a responsibility to notify the public that HIV and AIDS is not a punishment for bad behaviour!
    -Work with health professionals when preparing programs about the health aspects of HIV and AIDS. You need reliable sources in order to disseminate useful broadcasts and to avoid spreading misinformation.
    -Work with NGOs to amplify their work and yours. In particular, identify and work with traditional theatre and other groups that use effective ways to reach local people. Dramatizations are most effective when they are followed by a discussion or a call-in show.
    -Get support from upper management. Explain to supervisors that radio programming can save people’s lives, that there has never been a challenge like HIV before, and that no country can afford to ignore it.
    -Be bold in taking risks and pushing limits. There is a natural shyness when it comes to talking about sexual relations. But it is impossible to deal effectively with HIV and AIDS without discussing sex openly and frankly. You might take a little heat, but remember that what you are doing can help to save lives. In too many places, a conspiracy of silence has allowed HIV to infect and result in the deaths of millions, and impact every aspect of human life.
    -Involve youth. Young people are one of the hardest groups to reach. No one can communicate with youth better than youth itself. Teach young people basic radio production skills and encourage them to develop their own programming. Their programs will be more interesting and attractive to youth.
    -Involve adults when you develop programs for youth. Form an advisory committee of parents and community leaders, including religious leaders. This will reduce the chances of strong opposition to the programs.
    -Incorporate messages about HIV and AIDS into programming on other issues. It is important not to address HIV and AIDS in isolation. In some places it is regarded as a taboo subject, or people have become numb to HIV and AIDS messages and have stopped listening.
    -Add a lighter tone now and again. Pieces on HIV and AIDS don’t have to be full of dread and death. It is possible to communicate about HIV and AIDS in a humourous and attractive way. Sex is generally a topic that attracts attention and can make people laugh. Capturing the laughter and fun in a race to blow up condoms or fill them with water, or getting people to role play a couple awkwardly discussing the need for protection can associate prevention with fun rather than fear.
    -Invite faith-based organizations to discuss their beliefs about tolerance and acceptance and how these principles can be applied to people living with HIV and AIDS. Religious leaders have a role to play in helping people make the link between their religious beliefs and the stigmatization of people living with HIV and AIDS. Ask about teachings that include helping those who are less fortunate.
    -Beware of misinformation about condoms that is purposely circulated by those who oppose condom use. Broadcasters have a responsibility to correct untruths, including claims that condoms don’t prevent HIV transmission or that they spread HIV. Check with health officials if you are not sure if a rumour is truth or fiction.
    -Appreciate that HIV is not just another health problem. Think of HIV as a national security challenge. It has the potential to affect every aspect of life in a country. Radio broadcasters have a civic responsibility to ensure that radio is used effectively to reduce HIV infection and diminish its impact.

    Important messages
    -Point out that testing positive for HIV is not a death sentence. After becoming infected, a person can live a perfectly normal life, showing no symptoms for five to ten years and even longer if they get antiretroviral treatment. The earlier the test is done, the easier it will be to keep healthy, and avoid getting re-infected and infecting others.
    -Don’t waste time and confuse the public by talking about forms of transmission that may be possible but are very rare. Almost all HIV is sexually transmitted. The second largest transmission mode is from an infected mother to her child, and in almost all cases the mother was infected through sexual transmission. Injection drug users who share needles also risk infection. Make sure that sexual transmission gets the attention it should. Most other methods of transmission − such as cuts from sharp metal objects − are possible but very, very unlikely. People worry too much about getting infected by unlikely sources such as casual contact with body fluids or sharing razors, and do not worry enough about unprotected sexual intercourse.
    -Remind people that it is impossible to tell if a person is infected with HIV by looking at them or by their background. The vast majority of people who are infected don’t know they are infected; they live perfectly normal lives and show no signs or symptoms. They can be from any walk of life, age, economic group or educational level. HIV doesn’t discriminate, since the great majority of people over 15 years old have sex.

    For basic background information on HIV and AIDS, go to:

    In January 2005, Farm Radio International published a package of scripts that focused on HIV and AIDS and food security. To find these scripts, go to:, and scroll down to Package 73.

    You might also like to re-read the two FRW issues published for World AIDS Day last year:

    For more information and story ideas on land rights and women, see:

    For more information and story ideas on conservation agriculture, see: