The Chinese media - and its role in ending HIV discrimination

UNAIDS executive director Michel Sidibé marks Journalists Day by urging the media to play a greater role in combating the spread of HIV in China

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 07 November, 2013, 5:16pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 07 November, 2013, 11:23pm

On the occasion of Journalists Day, UNAids would like to recognise the crucial role of journalists and the media in responding to the threat of HIV – and how China’s media in particular can lead the way in helping to eradicate discrimination against people living with HIV.

We know that HIV prevention and treatment efforts have progressed with lightning speed in recent years. Thanks to improved treatment regimens and medicines to prevent new HIV infections among children, we have the tools to effectively prevent the spread of HIV and dramatically increase the longevity and quality of life of people living with HIV.

The media has the power to build a healthier society, to make a difference to the lives of people living with HIV – and ultimately save lives

But although medicine is a powerful tool in tackling the spread of HIV, we also recognise the incredible power of another tool – information.

Every year, people become infected with HIV because they lack access to information on HIV prevention. And people die because they do not receive information on lifesaving antiretroviral treatment. We know that stigma and discrimination play a role in this. Fear can also keep people from getting an HIV test or accessing crucial health services.

We know that true progress in the response to HIV requires challenging entrenched beliefs and behaviours. But by improving access to accurate information and reporting about the lives and perspectives of people most affected by HIV, journalists can contribute to these changes.

In China, we have already seen bold leadership and engagement from the media. From major news agencies, to provincial and local newspapers, TV channels and individual journalists, action is being taken.

China has certainly demonstrated impressive progress in the prevention of the spread of HIV. According to government reports between 2005 and this year, the number of people accessing HIV treatment in China increased almost ten-fold, to over 190,000. In many areas China is a leader in this field, introducing and adapting successful programmes from abroad. The development of the world’s largest harm-reduction programme for drug users is one such case, and has been extended to more than 200,000 people across China. Progress in the Aids response in China means progress for the world, and to see such progress in such a short time has been truly inspirational. But there is still more we can do.

To mark Journalists’ Day, I call on more media partners to get involved in ensuring the accurate and informative reporting of HIV. The media has the power to build a healthier society, to make a difference to the lives of people living with HIV – and ultimately save lives.

With the support of the media, I am confident we can ensure more children are born free from HIV, new HIV infections are prevented and people living with HIV have access to lifesaving treatment in an environment free from fear of stigma and discrimination.