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NAS and HARA hold one-day seminar on HIV/AIDS

NAS and HARA hold one-day seminar on HIV/AIDS

The National AIDS Secretariat (NAS) in collaboration with the HIV/AIDS Reporters Association (HARA) have held a one seminar on HIV reporting. The seminar was held on Friday 16t July at the Ramsey House on Liverpool, Freetown.

Present at the forum were NAS stakeholders and journalists from the various print and electronic media. The main theme of the seminar was the “Role of the Print Media in HIV Reporting”.

It was a consultative forum aimed at focusing journalists on accurate and effective reporting on HIV.

Representatives of the United Nations family were also present and took part in the deliberation.

In his opening remarks, the Chairman for the occasion who is also Commissioner of the Independent Media Commissioner, Mr. Christo Johnson, urged journalists to take the lead in HIV reporting, and encouraged editors and senior reporters to provide little time and space in their papers on HIV issues.

The President of HARA, Mr. Samuel B. Conteh, in his welcome remarks, hastened to inform participants at the seminar to realize that the HIV pandemic is here and that it was real, and that the HIV pandemic should be a concern for all colleague journalists as the HIV is not a respecter of persons irrespective of colour, race or age, one is at high risk of contracting the Virus either directly or indirectly.

Stimulating the discussion further, the pragmatic Sierra Leone Association of Journalists (SLAJ) President, Mr. Umaru Fofana intimated journalists that the issue of HIV has been shrouded in cultural mystery which people are not willing to talk about because of the stigma attached to it. He added that journalists should not be complacent about reporting on HIV in spite of its prevalence.

“Journalists should be proactive in reporting on HIV as that would be one of the ultimate responsibilities of the profession; let’s arrest HIV, it is here and it is real,” he cautioned.

However, the seminar presentation took the form of deliberating on the various ethics that involve HIV reporting which was precisely explained by a NAS expert, Mr. Abu Bakarr Koroma.

Taking the podium to illuminate on HIV reporting skills, he told journalists that he loved the phrase which is now commonly used by people, which is “knowledge is power.” He said this widely used slogan has become a cliché; and that we should be mindful of the cliché because it teaches something that is worth learning.

Mr. Koroma further gave examples that when a doctor makes a mistake, one person is liable to die; but when a journalist makes a mistake millions of people die through that one mistake made.

“This is why as media practitioners we should be cautious in reporting on people affected with the HIV pandemic so that those who are HIV positives would not feel guilty of their status. Mr. Koroma added that in talking about HIV, the names of things should not be shrouded in secrecy, except when reporting on an affected person the right of confidentiality must be observed in full.

Mr. Koroma also admonished that “one does not need to be a Medical doctor before you know how to report on the HIV pandemic; its only needs one to be interested and be focused on the case you are reporting on. But in the case wherein big technical medical jargons are involved, we must be considerate enough to employ the attention of a medical technician or an expert on HIV counselor,” he advised.

At the end of the Forum, a brief demonstration on the secure use of both female and male condoms was done by Salamatu Barley and Mr. Samuel B. Conteh.

According to an HIV affected person speaking at the seminar, being an HIV positive does not warrant a death sentence and that an HIV positive person has the potential to live for more years as the unaffected person.

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