Media coverage ‘key to AIDS free generation’

An AIDS free generation is attainable through continued media coverage and proactive government communication, a former CNN senior medical reporter has said.

By Robert Tapfumaneyi

An AIDS free generation is attainable through continued media coverage and proactive government communication, a former CNN senior medical reporter has said.

Addressing members of Zimbabwe’s Women Journalists Mentoring Programme (WJMP), TV correspondent turned public health communicator Dan Rutz said: “We know for the first time it is possible to consider an AIDS free generation, it is important to keep the momentum in AIDS reporting because the public is still interested. You can use a breaking news story as a springboard for other stories, that’s one way of making it relevant.”

At a breakfast roundtable at the US Embassy’s Eastgate offices in Harare Rutz said journalists need to “understand that when you are reporting on health…people’s lives might be at stake. A good gift to have is empathy, be able to put yourself in the shoes of your audience.”

Rutz offered tips on how journalists can enhance their coverage of HIV and AIDS. He said a lot of health news can be tied to medical literature because science is such a disciplined field. He said peer reviewers will try to pick fault with research, which essentially journalists may find themselves in the position of defending.

In addition to government health authorities Rutz said journalists can find a wealth of information in international peer-reviewed journals such as the New England Journal of Medicine (published every Thursday), the Journal of the American Medical Association, and the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, a CDC publication. But more importantly he said journalists should cultivate good relations with major universities in the country.

WJMP entered its second year last month by welcoming 14 journalists from various media houses throughout Zimbabwe. The programme, implemented jointly by the Humanitarian Information Facilitation Center and the US Embassy, develops professional and leadership skills for women in the media.

Following 18 years at CNN, Rutz is currently leading the CDC communication strategy and media engagement for HIV prevention in southern and eastern Africa.

 

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