Community Development Health

Media Applauded for Disseminating HIV/AIDS Information Effectively

Minister Mutsvangwa (L) flanked by Dr. Madzima (R) hands over a certificate to a journalist Robin Muchetu who received an award at a colourful ceremony in Harare

The Minister of Information, Publicity, and Broadcasting Services, Monica Mutsvangwa has applauded members of the media for consistently, responsibly, correctly, and passionately communicating the HIV and AIDS story through both the print and electronic media.

Speaking during the 2020 National Aids Council Media Awards Ceremony in Harare on Friday, Minister Mutsvangwa said the editors and journalists were showing dedication to their work in keeping the HIV and AIDS story alive and shepherding the public towards behaviour change.

“I am very pleased and honoured to have been requested to be the Guest of Honour at this auspicious event to mark the handover of awards for the 2020 National AIDS Council Media Awards. This afternoon we are gathered here to recognise and reward those journalists. It is fair to say that reportage on HIV and AIDS has significantly improved over the years especially on building and instilling hope instead of the yester-year scary and gory stories, which put forward HIV as a death sentence.

“The role of the media in advocating for policy change has been significant too. You continue to amply highlight required policy changes by amplifying weaknesses in our current policies, including around programming and funding and putting in the spotlight governments decisions and practices that may not be in tandem with the objectives of the response,” said Mutsvangwa.

She pointed out that the media has therefore been instrumental in the realisation of the progress the country has achieved in the response to HIV and AIDS over the years explaining that they should give the same reportage on Covid-19 issues.

“We can once again rely on your expertise as well as that of the programmers to change the trajectory and reverse the tide of the equally formidable COVID-19 pandemic. I am convinced that we shall prevail once again over COVID-19 if we continue working together as stakeholders, with the media informing, educating, and warning our people about the pandemic.”

Minister Mutsvangwa also thanked the media fraternity for its role in the widespread dissemination of information on COVID-19, which has empowered people to practice safe behaviour.

Passion and commitment, she said, are very important in covering HIV and AIDS, which face stiff competition for space from various current issues, including COVID-19, non-communicable diseases (NCDs), politics, entertainment, and others.

She further highlighted that the media is one of the key drivers of widespread awareness and knowledge the people have about HIV and AIDS including the utilisation of prevention and treatment services.

“The increase in HIV and COVID-19 awareness, the uptake of prevention and vaccination services, the continued decline in HIV incidence and prevalence, and the uptake of treatment services are part of these achievements that the media has played a key part in.”

Although some significant progress in the response to both HIV and COVID-19 has been recorded, as confirmed by the recent Global AIDS Progress Report for HIV, and the decline in new COVID-19 cases, Minister Mutsvangwa said a lot still has to be done to dispel various myths and cultural practices that still abound including widespread complacence, which together stunt the progress.

“We, therefore, need innovative ways on how to motivate people to take up vaccination and adopt safer sexual behaviours voluntarily and for their own good, rather than because Government has said so.

“According to recent reports, Zimbabwe has achieved its 90-90-90 by 2020 targets through which the majority of people living with HIV now know their status, are on treatment, and are virally suppressed.

“Now that we have adopted the 95-95-95 by 2025, we are well on course towards epidemic control and the eventual ending of AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.

“Such achievements are in line with Government policy and vision as espoused in the National Development Strategy 1, in which the media has a crucial duty to publicise and rally public participation and support.”

Additionally, minister Mutsvangwa said, achieving health and wellbeing for the people was central to the vision of the Second Republic, which in addition to what has been achieved in the response to HIV and COVID-19, is investing significant resources towards rejuvenating and strengthening the national health delivery system.

“The media, therefore, remains even more relevant to the response as our people have to be informed about these developments in the health sector. These include focusing on Non-Communicable Diseases such as cancer, kidney infections, heart and other ailments, which are becoming prevalent as people living with HIV are now living longer. ”

She urged the media not to just continue with the work they have been doing, but to do it better, consistently, objectively, and using language that is sensitive to the people infected and affected.

“We all know that beyond those facts and figures are human faces and emotions that we need to provide hope to. You have already done this work well thus far, and I am hopeful that these awards will motivate you to do even better.”

Dr. Bernard Madzima, the Chief Executive Officer of the National AIDS Council is an advocate for community-based media reportage. He led editors and reporters on a nationwide tour of communities where interesting stories about HIV and AIDS with a human interest surfaced. Of particular interest were stories about economic hardships that led to sex workers resorting to barter trade for their services. A story about a university student who had quit her studies to do commercial sex work attracted well-wishers who raised money for her to get back to school.

The winners were as follows:

In the Print Media category, the First Prize went to Robin Muchetu (The Sunday News). The Second Prize winner was Andile Tshuma (The Chronicle) followed by Debra Matabvu (The Sunday Mail). Abigirl Tembo (ZBC News), clinched the first prize in the Electronic Media category followed by Zororai Nkomo (ZiFM) and Thulani Siziba (Radio Zimbabwe). The first prize in the Online Media category was won by Sly Media, with Health Times in the second position and Crucial Kuwanga (Techno Mag).

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende