Press ready to write more frequently about the fight against AIDS
On the eve of World AIDS Day a national conference took place in the capital on ‘Problems of AIDS as Reflected by the Mass Media. An Open Dialogue between Leading Figures in the Russian Mass Media, Representatives of Civil Society and the Institute of Health.’
Representatives of the mass media from different parts of Russia and NGO leaders took part. The organisers were the Union of Journalists in Russia, and UNAIDS. The director of the UNAIDS regional office, Dennis Brown, noted in his opening remarks that he saw the mass media as partners in the struggle against the spread of AIDS. He suggested that journalists should get well acquainted with the nuances of the problem. For instance, ‘…it was important to distinguish between distributing and using narcotics both as to the crime and the punishment. The acting director of the Russian branch of the USA International Development Agency, Jonathan Kamin, also acknowledged the important role of the mass media in informing the population about HIV. Vladimir Mayanovsky, chair of the co-ordinating council of the National Association of People Living with HIV, said that sometimes journalists played a negative role. As a result of early publications on the subject, the phrase ‘AIDS is the plague of the twentieth century’ started doing the rounds. Thousands of HIV infected people suffered because of that and experienced discrimination at the hands of healthy members of the community. Mayanovsky also stated that stories periodically appearing in the mass media about someone intentionally giving the disease to passers-by with an infected needle had not been authenticated. They nevertheless instilled fear of HIV positive people in the community. The chief executive of the NGO asked participants in the conference to check facts carefully and remember that someone’s fate might depend on each publication.