Date Posted: January 26th, 2009
The impact of AIDS on food security has been well documented. A study carried out in Zimbabawe revealed that agricultural output declined by nearly 50 per cent in AIDS-affected households. Maize production declined by 61 per cent and vegetable production by 49 per cent as a result of illness and deaths from AIDS.
In this story, we see how food insecurity can affect people living with HIV. Access to nutritious food is essential for HIV-positive people to maintain their health, and receive the greatest benefit from antiretroviral drugs. There is also evidence that people desperate to obtain food are more likely to engage in risky activities in exchange for food or money.
-This report on “How high food prices increase the risk of HIV,” from Rwanda’s New Times provides greater detail: http://allafrica.com/stories/200812080219.html.
-PlusNews, a service of the UN’s Integrated Regional Information Networks, focuses exclusively on HIV/AIDS news and analysis: http://www.plusnews.org/Region.aspx?Region=AFR&Service=PNE.
In January 2005, Farm Radio International published a package of scripts focusing on HIV/AIDS and food security. One of these scripts, “Community responses to HIV/AIDS”, can be found below, in the Script of the Week section.
-To find these scripts, go to: http://www.farmradio.org/english/radio-scripts/numerical.asp, and scroll down to Package 73.
-To browse other Farm Radio resources on the subject of HIV and AIDS, go to:
The following section provides advice and ideas on creating programs that deal with HIV and AIDS, and important messages that your programs can pass on:
-Involve people living with HIV/AIDS in your broadcasts. Encourage them to tell their stories on the radio. Withhold their identity if they prefer to remain anonymous.
-Remember that media itself can stigmatize people living with HIV/AIDS, and try to avoid such pitfalls. For example, radio has a responsibility to notify the public that HIV/AIDS is not a punishment for bad behaviour!
-Work with health professionals when preparing program s about the health aspects of HIV and AIDS. You need reliable sources in order to disseminate useful broadcasts and to avoid spreading misinformation.
-Work with NGOs to amplify their work and yours. In particular, identify and work with traditional theatre groups that know effective ways to reach local people. Dramatizations are most effective when they are followed by a discussion or a call-in show.
-Get support from upper management. Explain to supervisors that radio programming can save people’s lives, that there has never been a challenge like HIV before, and that no country can afford to ignore it.
-Be bold in taking risks and pushing limits. There is a natural shyness when it comes to talking about sexual relations. But it is impossible to deal effectively with HIV/AIDS without discussing sex openly and frankly. You might take a little heat, but remember that what you are doing is saving lives. In too many places, a conspiracy of silence has allowed HIV to infect and kill millions, and impact every aspect of human life.
-Involve youth. Youth is one of the hardest groups to reach. No one can communicate with youth better than youth itself. Give young people basic radio production skills and encourage them to develop their own programming. Their programs will be more interesting and attractive to youth.
-Involve adults when you develop programs for youth. Form an advisory committee of parents and community leaders, including religious leaders. This will reduce the chances of strong opposition to the programs. Stress to the committee that the goal of the programs is to protect those who are sexually active and discourage those who are not sexually active from starting.
-Incorporate messages about HIV/AIDS into programming on other issues. It is important not to address HIV/AIDS in isolation. In some places it is regarded as a taboo subject or people have become numb to HIV/AIDS messages and have stopped listening.
-Add a lighter tone now and again. HIV and AIDS doesn’t have to be full of dread and death. It is possible to communicate about HIV and AIDS in a humourous and attractive way. Sex is generally a topic that attracts attention and can make people laugh. Capturing the laughter and fun in a race to blow up condoms or fill them with water, or getting people to role play a couple on their first date awkwardly discussing the need for protection can associate prevention with fun rather than fear.
-Invite faith-based organizations to discuss their beliefs about tolerance and acceptance and how these principles can be applied to people living with HIV and AIDS. Religious leaders have a role to play in helping people make the link between their religious beliefs and the stigmatization of people Living with HIV and AIDS. Ask about the teachings that include helping those who are less fortunate.
-Beware of misinformation about condoms that is purposely circulated by those who oppose condom use. Broadcasters have a responsibility to correct untruths, including claims that condoms don’t prevent HIV transmission or that they spread HIV. Check with health officials if you are not sure if a rumour is truth or fiction.
-Appreciate that HIV is not just another health problem. Think of HIV as a national security challenge. It has the potential to affect every aspect of life in a country. Radio broadcasters have a civic responsibility to ensure that radio is used effectively to reduce HIV infection and diminish its impact.
-Point out that testing positive for HIV is not a death sentence. After becoming infected a person can live a perfectly normal life, showing no symptoms for five to ten years and even longer if they get antiretroviral treatment. The earlier the test is done the easier it will be to keep healthy, and avoid getting re-infected and infecting others.
-Don’t waste time and confuse the public by talking about forms of transmission that may be possible but are very rare. Almost all HIV is sexually transmitted. The second largest transmission mode is from an infected mother to her child and in almost all cases the mother was infected through sexual transmission. In some countries, injection drug users who share needles risk infection. Make sure that sexual transmission gets the attention it should. Most other methods of transmission are possible but are very, very unlikely such as pricks from sharp metal objects. People worry too much about getting infected by very unlikely means such as casual contact with body fluids or sharing razors, and do not worry enough about unprotected sexual intercourse.
-Remind people that it is impossible to tell if a person is infected with HIV by looking at them or by their background. The vast majority of people who are infected don’t know they are and live perfectly normal lives and show no signs. They can be from any walk of life, age, economic group or educational level. HIV doesn’t discriminate, since the great majority of people over 15 years old have sex.