6 Dec 2008

December 1st was World Aids Day, an occasion marked each year by different activities including rallies, speeches, free and voluntary blood screening for the Aids virus in order to sensitise and mobilise people towards HIV/Aids eradication. 

As usual, the media people made it colourful with photographs, interviews and stories that were published in newspapers, TV screens and broadcasted by various radio stations in the country. 

One thing the media personnel did not do on the very day was to tell their audience the status of journalists with regard to the spread of HIV/Aids amongst themselves. 

Health authorities report that the prevalence of HIV/Aids among the Tanzanian population averaged at 7 per cent. 

However, this percentage may not be useful to journalists if they themselves are not participants in the free voluntary testing going on throughout the country, so they can be in the front line to take the test and publicly give testimonies as to their status and experiences. 

Last week`s meeting in Nairobi, Kenya from November 27-29 that was attended by journalists living with HIV from Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia flagged off this important process in the region. 

Tanzania was represented at the workshop by the author of this article, Zephania Musendo, Kenya had two participants, Evelyn Simaloy and Lucy Maroncha. 

From Ethiopia were Ermeyas Mekonen and Tamerat Yemane and from Uganda came Elvis Basudde and David Musengeri. 

It was the first meeting of its kind to be held in Eastern Africa with the express purpose of bringing together journalists living with HIV/Aids in order to establish a network for sensitisation, mobilisation and action against the spread of HIV/Aids at the work places of journalists and beyond. 

The gist of the meeting was to work together on regional initiatives to promote a vibrant media fully engaged in the response to HIV/Aids. 

Journalists from the region shared experiences as victims of the HIV/Aids scourge. 

Panos Eastern Africa, which is working to support the establishment of a network of Journalists Living With HIV/Aids (JLWHA) was represented by Paul Banoba, Health Communications Regional Programme Co-ordinator, Paul Kimuwe, Programme Assistant and Metsehate Ayenekulu. 

The proceedings of the meeting and interactions of the participants were just as interesting as valuable. 

Serious deliberations started on November 27, when participants were introduced to the JLWHA project-their own project. 

It was amplified that journalists themselves must take the lead in testing and expounding on the HIV/Aids message of treatment, care and prevention. Surely, the testimonies given by the participants went a long way to confirm that they were ready for the task. 

Panos` Paul Banoba told the participants that South Africa had made some headway in establishing a network for journalists living with HIV/Aids. He therefore, urged the Eastern Africa region to follow suit and catch up with South Africa. 

The participants immediately positively took up the challenge. 

This is what they unanimously agreed to realise; that at the end of the meeting they would cascade information back to their media organisations and communities, raise the voices of people living with HIV/Aids, influence media houses to publish more stories on HIV/Aids, publicise the initiative to others, remain active and share HIV/Aids stories with other members. 

They also vowed to communicate within country and at regional levels, ask Panos to lead the progress of engaging members and communicate with journalists living with HIV/Aids until networks are established. 

They did not stop at that. Most importantly, they also charted means of realising those objectives. 

They said they would sensitise and identify more journalists to cover HIV/Aids and TB care and support programmes. They resolved to enrol more members and produce more feature articles on HIV/Aids. 

They would also introduce education programmes on HIV/Aids at work places and organise press conferences and briefings. 

The participants said they would establish links with national Aids programmes and Panos as stakeholders. 

In the end, they anticipated improved coverage of HIV/Aids and TB stories, reduced stigma on the victims in the Eastern Africa communities as well as increased support from editors in expanded focus on HIV/Aids stories and finally reach their ultimate goal of establishing networks of journalists living with HIV/Aids in their home countries as the end result. 

Panos Eastern Africa Executive Director, Luther Anukur, who officiated at the workshop`s closing ceremony had this to say; ``We are celebrating the birth of something new- the Network of Journalists Living with HIV/Aids which is very much needed.`` 

he added; ``Our commitment to do what participants of this meeting have resolved-to support the network to take off.`` 

Though Anukur admitted that this was a challenging task they were starting, he expressed optimism. 
``One day we will have the dream come to pass,`
SOURCE: Ippmedia.


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