The Media and HIV in PNG PNG Business Coalition Against HIV and AIDS or BAHA leads the HIV response on behalf of the PNG private sector, their employees and their families.  Our leadership includes setting standards for the way we tell our HIV stories, because the way we talk about HIV influences perceptions, beliefs and the behaviours required to protect the health of everyone.

The mass media is the biggest influence of perceptions, beliefs and behaviour about HIV.  TV, radio and newspapers play an important role in PNG’s HIV epidemic because each can create more informed discussion about HIV and related issues in your workplace.  In reporting HIV

stories, the media also has the capacity to help hold the government, donor partners and other interested parties to account for their role in the national HIV effort.

Over the past two years, BAHA has reviewed the daily newspaper coverage of HIV as part of our role as leaders in the national response.  Our review of the coverage of HIV was assisted with by a K10, 000 grant from the National Research Institute and was recently presented at the NRI.  We hope our analysis will improve our conversations, questions, stories and training materials about HIV and the people whose lives are affected by it.

Everyone benefits when people use more accurate information when discussing workplace HIV programs designed to promote health protective behaviour. This month we aim to provide ideas for better story telling based on our review of the PNG print media’s coverage of HIV.

BAHA HIV Print media research 2005 – 2007 results to consider

  • The coverage is huge!  In PNG from Nov 2005 to Dec 2007, The National and Post Courier published 1808 stories, editorials or letters that mentioned HIV or AIDS
  • In PNG, the paper may be the only regular source of written information for many people.  Invite the media to everything you do well
  • The two newspapers published similar number of articles about HIV over the analysis period in Post Courier and The National
  • Maureen Gerawa (Post Courier) wrote 6% of all articles over the period
  • More than half of all articles about HIV are NOT written by National or Post Courier journalists. Write your own excellent stories and send them to the press
  • 87% of stories were about PNG, 3% about HIV in the Pacific region.

What did the PNG press report about HIV?

51% of all stories reported activities related to awareness, prevention or new project or effort in major towns.  A typical headline would be “Training to be a better leader” with accompanying photograph of course graduates holding participation certificates.  Typically, these stories include aid jargon about information sharing, capacity building, confidence building and HIV as a development issue.  Few stories took the opportunity to tell stories of personal experience or significant change as consequence of the training, or provided specific, measurable, achievable, realistic or time bound behaviours or challenges for participants and the target group they represented.

Stereotypes in HIV stories

Most stories discuss HIV in relation to broad groups rather than provide detailed stories about individuals and how HIV or AIDS affects their lives.  Generalisations encourage stereotyping about characteristics or behaviours of a group of people – rather than specific behaviour which might place people at risk of infection.  Focus on stereotypes about “prostitutes” and women as carers perpetuate myths and help make it easier to blame sex workers or help men believe that only wives can stay home to look after ill family members.  The press reported hundreds of stories about “youth” attending training.  Do all these stories imply that it is only “youth” who need to change their behaviour and that “youth” are in some way more responsible for the spread of HIV than other age groups?

Last month BAHA presented a few numbers about the incidence of HIV in older men – specifically because this age group seem to get very little press coverage.  The following headlines of articles about HIV make use of stereotypes that are neither accurate nor useful in getting employees to seek more information about HIV.

Headlines collected in BAHA’s print media research
HIV rate high in pregnant women
Women prone to AIDS
Women want money

Lesson for workplace stories

Report stories of individuals and what they have done or are doing because of your workplace program.

Use of the military metaphor

Example PNG press headlines “14 Armed to Fight HIV/AIDS”  “Call to get leaders into HIV/AIDS fight”  “Hagen council join AIDS battle”  “Spiritual intervention can fight HIV/AIDS”  “The AIDS battle rages on”  “One Enemy… but the war of words can be confusing”   Big men around the world use the military metaphor and the press in PNG has embraced this.  Unfortunately, PNG’s HIV epidemic is not a simple battle to be won or lost but a complex development issue that is not easily divided into winners and losers.  It is also important to consider how these headlines affect those already infected by HIV.

Workplace leaders can set a new tone for public discussion about HIV and AIDS that focuses on issues relevant to PNG’s epidemic such as unprotected sex with multiple partners; violent sex; and alcohol abuse.  Words like protect, understand, discuss, share, respect, learn, practice and cooperate may not make great headlines in the eyes of editors but they are important for the protection of people from HIV infection.

BAHA recommends you avoid making speeches at the close of training about how HIV requires armies, generals, fighting, enemies, victors, losers, commands, allies, or orders.  HIV is not the enemy and behaviour change is difficult.  People living with HIV in PNG probably became infected through sex without a condom.  They are not losers of a battle, and they are not the enemy.  Not knowing your HIV status, not using condoms or forcing a woman to have sex is risky and each requires new beliefs and skills.

What can your business do to create better headlines for company news items or press releases?

Use informative and specific words to more accurately tell HIV stories

  1. Talk about sex (as in sexually transmitted infection, sexual intercourse, sex education)
  2. Acknowledge gender (as in violence against women, vulnerability of younger women, or older men who are away from home)
  3. Target change (reduce alcohol consumption , learn to talk to your wife about family planning, change attitudes about hitting women, use HIV services that are now available)
  4. Ensure everyone has access to condoms (role of condoms, use of condoms, effectiveness of condoms)
  5. Report and act on all forms of violence (sexual assault, rape, or forced sex)

Use the power of your own business communications, to tell interesting and accurate stories, embrace the opportunity for behaviour change and report on the human face of HIV in PNG.

Saw something in the paper and want to ask about HIV?
Call BAHA Digicel Toll Free HIV Infoline
7200 2242 M – F 8 to 8

Infoline FAQ for September Is HIV infection associated with an increased risk for cholera?  YES.  Cholera is an acute intestinal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholerae.  It has an incubation period of 1 to 5 days, resulting in copious, painless, watery diarrhoea that can quickly lead to severe dehydration and death if treatment is not promptly given. Vomiting also occurs in most patients.  Learn more


2 thoughts on “The Media and HIV in PNG

  1. I in 1992-1995 was the General Ad Manager of Word Publishing the then Church owned United, Lutheran, Anglican and Catholic newspapers group (majority Catholic owned at 55%) I tried on numerous occasions to get the company’s Board (largely made up of bible bashers) to allow the use of educational cartoons in Wantok Nuispepa to promote safe sex practices or abstinence. Because these idiots were only interested in having a growing flock of followers they refused time after time to allow anything that promoted the use of Condoms..despite my warnings of the dire consequences of their decision they held fast.

    I personally blame the Churches in PNG for doing little or nothing to educate PNG’s of the consequnce of unprotected sex.

    I note their newspapers went bust-which wasn’t such a bad thing-it is one less thing they can meddle in..

    Upon Gods head be it.

  2. Thanks Howard, absolutely right there. They have the medical outposts and schools and the medium by which to educate on this matter and it does not go far enough.

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