Leading Jordanian journalists are hoping to help improve reporting on HIV/AIDS, having taken part in a workshop focusing on curtailing popular misperceptions.
“We need to publish HIV/AIDS articles on a regular basis in order to familiarise people with the issue,” said Mahmoud al-Omari, a media trainer at Jordan’s official news agency, Petra.
Along with 12 other trainers from Jordan, Bangladesh and Kazakhstan, al-Omari recently attended a workshop on HIV/AIDS and the media in the Bangladeshi capital of Dhaka.
The event was held within the framework of a United Nations Educationl, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) project entitled: “Reducing the Impact of the HIV/AIDS Crisis in and through Education”.
“HIV/AIDS was a totally new area of work for most of us,” said al-Omari, now back in the Jordanian capital, Amman.
During the three-day workshop, al-Omari learnt how to use multi-media, including video-clips, music and web design, to illustrate messages relating to HIV/AIDS.
Special attention was given to the use of appropriate language. “We learnt it was necessary to use words that imply inclusiveness,” al-Omari explained, “and to avoid promoting discrimination and stigma”.
Attendees also concentrated on ethical aspects of reporting, such as the importance of privacy and confidentiality.
But al-Omari’s most difficult task lies ahead: transmitting what he learned at the workshop to his Jordanian media colleagues.
“The important thing isn’t only to change reporters’ minds about HIV/AIDS, but also the minds of editors-in-chief,” he pointed out.
The freshly-qualified media trainer added that social attitudes and popular misperceptions about HIV/AIDS remained the primary obstacles to dialogue on the issue.
“It’s very difficult to talk about sex in public, or even within the family,” noted al-Omari. “But that doesn’t mean we should remain silent.”
He is planning to utilise his new skills this year to compile a bilingual Arabic/English web manual for journalists covering HIV/AIDS issues.
Although there is no systematic monitoring of HIV prevalence in Jordan, the estimated number of adults and children living with the virus nationwide is put at some 600, according to a UNAIDS/WHO fact sheet from 2004.
The most common modes of transmission in cases reported between 1997 and 2001 were heterosexual sex (40 percent), via blood transfusions (38.9 percent), men having sex with men (3.2 percent) and injecting drug users (3.2 percent), according to the report.
In an indication of rising awareness, a national workshop on media and HIV/AIDS is scheduled to be held in Jordan later this year.
This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions