The Anti-AIDS Media Network (AAMIN) with support from the American Jewish World Service (AJWS) has launched in partnership with the Press Union of Liberia (PUL), a sectorial media monitoring program with focus on HIV and Human Rights subjects for the first time in the country.
Liberia’s HIV prevalence is currently at 2.1% from 1.5% in 2007. The major mode of HIV transmission is through sexual intercourse. Stigma and discrimination which are main drivers of HIV since its discovery, remain pervasively high in the country, thus resulting into terminally ill persons to remain at home; while approach to engage those lost to follow-up and advocate for their welfare especially key populations – msm, commercial sex workers, and others – continue to remain a major challenge to national response to ending AIDS by 2030.
To help the situation, Anti-AIDS Media Network says the media monitoring program which was launched last Wednesday is intended to foster collectiveness for bettering journalism in Liberia toward ending AIDS by 2030.
“The Media Monitoring program is intended to mitigate bias, hate-mongering, stigmatization and discriminatory reporting in the media; to determine whether or not journalists and media workers are making proper (correct) use of Liberia’s First HIV and AIDS Media Guide for journalists and media practitioners launched since 2015; help increase media engagement with the view to playing a watchdog role over the HIV and AIDS sector by advocating for support to the sector and follow up on its utilization; and to help secure an enabling environment void of stigmatization and discrimination, violence and human rights violation due to health status against persons living with HIV and key population, thus increasing access to trseatment, care and support services through independent coverage of the sector,” Journalist Solomon Watkins, program officer of the media network noted when give an overview of the media monitoring program held at the PUL Headquarters in Monrovia. According to him, the program will run for six months, beginning from, 1st August, 2017 to 31st January, 2018.
He said the idea of HIV media monitoring follows the official launched of Liberia’s first HIV and AIDS Media Guide, early 2015; adding that in the minds of writers of the Guide which was developed through consultative means, a media monitoring initiative would help review the impact of the guide – whether or not it is properly utilized – coupled with to help inform policy direction to ending AIDS with the help of the media.
“The ultimate goal of monitoring program is for journalists to report on HIV in a scientifically accurate and responsible way that inspires others to follow suit,” Journalist Watkins maintained.
For his part, Mr. Dayougar Johnson, AJWS representative in Liberia reaffirmed organization’s support to AAMIN and the broader media landscape. He said “the America Jewish World Service focuses on three issues: devastating Ebola epidemic, securing communities’ access to land and other natural resources that they depend on for survival and ending discrimination and violence against women, persons living with HIV, and key population including man who have sex with men and commercial sex workers to access health services.” He further called on the media to help create an enabling environment for all, if Liberia must achieve her share of global target of zero AIDS related deaths, Zero Stigma and Discrimination and Zero HIV new HIV infection.
Also speaking, Mr. Maxwell W. Monboe, Coordinator of the Liberia’s Initiative for the Promotion of Rights, Identity, Diversity and Equality (LIPRIDE) thanked PUL and AAMIN for the launched of program. He said such program will help in programing for the media but urges the media to remain responsible in its engagement throughout with actors in the media.
Speaking on behalf of the National AIDS Commission of Liberia (NAC), Mr. Lincoln Reeves, communications coordinator also appreciated the partnership between AAMIN and PUL, stating “We are happy that the media is getting fully involved with HIV related works given the launching of this media monitoring initiative. We remain supportive to the works of AAMIN.” Mr. Reeves further called on the media to go beyond reporting only on the national prevalence of the country and look at other progress being made toward reducing the prevalence of HIV in the country. According to him, the government has conducted several studies and developed strategies to reduce HIV prevalence. “Facilities to treat and care persons living with HIV have increased. We have also identified the key population of persons living with HIV including man who have sex with men, uniform services, and commercial sex workers. You need to report on which kind of services the government is providing for these people. If we do we will be elevating our HIV response program,” Mr. Reeves stated.
Performing the launching ceremony at the PUL Headquarters Wednesday, James Davis, research officer of the PUL said the initiative undertaking by AAMIN will better encourage journalists to be specialized on reporting about HIV and AIDS Cases. Mr. Davis further commended the Anti-AIDS Media Network for the initiative and at the same time pledged the PUL support to the process.