Huge progress is being made in tackling HIV, yet one fundamental obstacle remains: stigma. It’s clear to all commentators that eradicating the shame related to HIV is a priority; what’s less clear is how you go about achieving this change.
Stigma manifests itself in numerous ways and the result is that many people are reluctant to come forward for HIV counselling, testing and treatment and are much less likely to take the appropriate medication. The stark consequence of this is that incidence rates are far higher than they should be.
In this report, we look at the role of the media. There’s a consensus that the media has an important contribution to make in challenging and changing societal attitudes. And there’s also agreement that the media is not achieving its full potential.
It faces a number of challenges: there is fatigue with the HIV story both on the part of the public and of journalists; in many countries there is a lack of training and resources; the media and NGOs using the media sometimes struggle to achieve the right tone and audiences turn away.
Our aim is to provide an overview of media initiatives which seek to reduce HIV related stigma, and to look at what works and what doesn’t. Where something is effective, there is a strong case for replicating it. But the sector needs to work harder to measure the impact of media initiatives in order to make the case for scaling up more persuasive.
A crucial part of this report is the result of a field visit to Swaziland. This gave us the opportunity to examine in detail different types of media initiatives aimed at reducing HIV related stigma, to speak to people living with HIV and to explore public attitudes.
We hope this research will provide useful evidence and concrete suggestions that will be relevant to all who have an interest in this issue: funders, NGOs, policy makers and the media.