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One of our greatest struggle as people living with HIV is how the media represents us. Most times we are either victims or threats. Those limited and distorted views of HIV fuel stigma and discrimination.

Because of this PozFem UK – our national positive women network- has put a lot of effort in preparing us to deal with the media. We have had several trainings that focused on public speaking, delivering key messages and engaging with the media. In one of our last meetings we talked a lot about how we could be more proactive and more visible. One of our dreams is to have a group interview in which we could tell our stories,  and also speak about of how we have developed into a group of activists. We really would like to highlight how the struggle for PLHIV to be accepted as equal and valued members of our communities, is part of a larger battle for equity, equality, and human rights.

With World AIDS Day coming on the First of December we are getting quite a few requests to be interviewed, but I have still failed to seduce a journalist in this idea of a group interview. Anyhow, I have received  some requests for individual interviews and I disseminated them among PozFem members.

Last week I put one of PozFem  coordinators, L, in contact with a female journalist – a freelancer- who initially seemed really sympathetic. I gave L our guidelines on how to carry on interviews safely and effectively and I encouraged her to go ahead with it,  but to be cautious, and really think through what she wanted to put across. On Friday she called me really distressed because the journalist had somehow convinced her to give her a picture of her and her partner and now wanted to sell the story with the picture to The Mirror! L was really distressed, she regretted having given her picture and she was sure it wasn’t her wish for that kind of tabloid to manipulate her story. She was particularly worried because  she had recently moved house as a consequence  of AIDS related hate crime, and she was really frighten of this happening again and of the consequences on her children and family. I called the journalist and somehow I managed to talk her out of it. L was really upset since she really wanted her story to be out, she was determined to challenge the myths and stereotypes around this virus,  so she was really disappointed when it proved impossible.

To win peoples minds and hearts so that they feel able to show support and solidarity to those of us who live with HIV it is crucial to engage  with the mainstream media, however this is a real challenge, because we need to also protect ourselves and those we love. What can be done? How can we do it?

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5 thoughts on “HIV and the Media

  1. Pingback: Africa is Our Own: Dr. Nathan Wolfe & GVFI « The Grotto Blog

  2. This one is a really hard one. Journalists are not really interested in those of uswho have been around a while and are a bit media savy and wouldn’t let them get away with it. I guess it is the nature of journalists to want to get as much info as possible for as little as possible and sell it for the greatest amount. Even journalistst who write a great article are not always in control of the head line ,as I once found out ‘ summer of love and now I must die’ was one that accompanied an article that actually wasn’t too bad.

    I had an experience a couple of years ago where the journalist told me where the story was being sold to. I insisted on copy. When the article was done the editor wouldn’t take it without some changes, so she said that she would take it somewhere else. I said no and that I had never agreed to an article being sold to the highest bidder. If the magazine wouldnt take it cos they wanted to portray me in a different light then that was tough for her. I had been very clear about what my exopectations were. I think she thought that I ould be persuaded to her way of thinking. I was not. The article was not published.
    It is my life and I have aright to decide how, where and by whom I am portrayed.

  3. Just a thought but maybe next year we could have the stories we want to go in the media and do a press release with those stories and the people who are willing to be photagraphed.

    That way we could get our message across and they would also get their personal story too.

    Just a thought

  4. Thank you for your input Julie. I agree that a more proactive approach, including a press release could be a better approach. Defenetly womething to try out next year.

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