Notes to Broadcasters on World AIDS Day

    | December 6, 2010

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    In 1988, the World Health Organization designated December 1 as World AIDS Day. Since then, this is the day when the world remembers people lost to AIDS, takes stock of progress made in halting the disease, and raises awareness to overcome stigma and increase understanding. The theme this year is Universal Access and Human Rights.

    For more information on World AIDS Day and global events, refer to these sites:

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

    This is UNAIDS’ 2010 Global Report, giving the latest global statistics on rates of infection and treatment:

    Here you can find detailed information and data for a number of countries in Africa:

    The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria is an international financing institution. It provides funds for many HIV and AIDS-related community projects in Africa. It is mentioned in some of FRW’s stories this week. Visit their site at:

    Broadcasters can check regional news outlets for local stories and events to mark World AIDS Day.

    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.

    Here are more Farm Radio International scripts on HIV and AIDS:

    Food is Medicine: HIV/AIDS and Nutrition. Package 65, Script 7, October 2002.

    Gender and HIV/AIDS. Package 81, Script 7, August 2007

    HIV/AIDS: Preventing mother-to-child transmission. Package 69, Script 6, December 2003.

    Here are some previous news stories on HIV and AIDS published in Farm Radio Weekly:

    Africa: Local food essential for HIV-positive people (Issue 53 January 2009)

    Uganda: Mulago Positive Women’s Network discovers potential of mushroom cultivation (Issue 57, March 2009)

    Zimbabwe: Renewed interest in traditional food creates opportunities for entrepreneurs and farmers (Issue 121, July 2010)

    World AIDS Day may inspire broadcasters to produce programs or hold activities to mark the day. We would love to hear about your events, and will share them in Farm Radio Weekly. Meanwhile, 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 media itself 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 is saving lives. In too many places, a conspiracy of silence has allowed HIV to infect and kill millions, and impact every aspect of human life.
    Involve youth. Youth is one of the hardest groups to reach. No one can communicate with youth better than youth itself. Give 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. 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 on their first date 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. In some countries, injection drug users who share needles risk infection. Make sure that sexual transmission gets the attention it should. Most other methods of transmission are possible but are very, very unlikely − such as cuts from sharp metal objects. People worry too much about getting infected by very unlikely means 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.