By: Reuben Sei Waylaun
In an effort to effectively and adequately report on basic health and human rights in the country, Stop AIDS in Liberia (SAIL) in collaboration with the Liberia Health and Rights Journalists Network (LHRJN) Tuesday, September 21, 2022, concluded a daylong media engagement in Monrovia.
Hosted under the theme: “National training with media institutions and stakeholders,” the training focused on the production of content and treatments of information on HIV and human rights in order to sensitize journalists to a dispassionate perception and for more ethical and professional media coverage of populations most vulnerable to HIV. Radio, television, online, and newspapers journalists attended the training.
Mr. Evans L. Adofo, Executive Director of Stop AIDS in Liberia (SAIL)
The overall goal of the training was to create awareness of the issues of key populations and the challenges of interventions in favor of key populations in the context of the response to HIV. It was also intended to strengthen the capacities of journalists in particular in the collection and processing of information in the context of key populations.
Key stakeholders in the country’s national HIV response including the National AIDS Commission, National AIDS Control Program, Liberia Network of Persons Living with HIV (LibNeP+), and other key population groups in the country attended the training and provided separate presentations on different thematic areas in the response.
Presenting on behalf of Liberia Health and Rights Journalists Network (LHRJN), Necus M. Andrews reminded the journalists that the media is a very powerful tool in the formation of opinion in any society.
Necus M. Andrews, Founder of the Liberia Health and Rights Journalists Network (LHRJN)
“The power of the media is also manifested when reporting on HIV, key populations, and human rights issues. The media can clearly contribute to educating those who are HIV-negative to take care of their health and those who are positive to live better with this condition and to get the best out of life. This depends on how journalists, address the task of reporting on persons living with HIV and those directly exposed to the virus,” Andrews said in his presentation.
Andrews also reminded the journalists that the Press Union of Liberia has in place a Code of Conduct for the practice of journalism.
He said “This Code seeks to balance the right of the public to information and the right of privacy of the individual protection. Preventive measures have been a challenge to be embraced, while those infected and exposed including key populations are being stigmatized and discriminated. Journalists have a critical role in correcting this situation by reporting on matters relating to the health and human rights of these people.”
Presenting on Stigma and discrimination against People living with HIV, Batie Nah said in the HIV response stigma and discrimination remain vital issues to address in Liberia and the world at large.
According to Nah, the Integrated Bio-Behavioral Surveillance Survey Report (IBBSS 2018) showed that there have been efforts to address stigma and discrimination in the country.
Nah said, “In 2018, the International Partnership (ICW, UNAIDS, and GNP+ with support from John Hopkins University) adopted a new version of the Stigma Index 2.0 to focus on a detailed understanding of KPs and stigma in healthcare settings.”
“There have been efforts to address stigma and discrimination in Liberia, but these have been limited in scope. Recently, Liberia signed up to the Global Partnership for the Elimination of HIV-Related Stigma and Discrimination, all in an effort to address and respond to the issues of stigma and discrimination experienced by people living with HIV,” he said.
For his part, Dr. Jonathan Flomo, Program Manager of the National AIDS Control Program (NACP) who presented on HIV Situational Analysis in Liberia said the NACP continues to lead biomedical activities critical for epidemic control and staying up to date with global best practices to ensure quality in the delivery of HIV services.
Dr. Jonathan Flomo, Program Manager of the National AIDS Control Program (NACP)
According to him, they are coordinating GOL and donor stakeholders to promote synergy and efficiency. Dr. Flomo said some activities slowed due to an impasse on Global Fund resources. He disclosed that the program worked hard to maximize activities with GOL and other partners receiving USG funding.
However, the NACP Program Manager has revealed delays in the release of GF resources for approved activities in the approved work plan.
“No GOL allotment to the program. There have been no GFATM-funded program implementations since July 2021. The program is challenged with basic operational gaps including electricity, internet, and fuel which are significantly impacting laboratory testing for viral load and EID as well as the operation of the laboratory information system and day-to-day running of the office,” Dr. Flomo said during his presentation.
The one-day media and stakeholders’ engagement was funded by the Civil Society Institute for HIV & Health (WCA).