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At UN-backed meeting, Asian media pledge greater response to AIDS

At UN-backed meeting, Asian media pledge greater response to AIDS

Asian media gathering in Malaysia
A new Asia-Pacific media AIDS initiative aimed at ensuring increased and improved coverage of the epidemic in the region has been launched at a United Nations-backed meeting in Malaysia.

Over 130 representatives from the region’s leading television, radio, print and electronic media gathered at the conference in Kuala Lumpur on 28 May, according to the Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS, which helped to organize the event.

“AIDS is a global crisis of major proportions that knows no boundaries,” said Advocate Dali Mpofu, CEO of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) and Chair of the Global Media AIDS Initiative, in the keynote address.

“There is no question that the media is one of the most powerful tools for changing the epidemic and it is severely underutilized,” he said, calling for the media to spread information “faster than the epidemic.”

UNAIDS’ Bai Bagasao, Manager of the Asia Pacific Leadership Forum on AIDS and Development, gave an overview of the current state of the epidemic, underlining the need to continue and improve AIDS coverage in the media.

“I understand that we are all waiting for a breakthrough, a vaccine, a cure or something dramatic, but the reality is that on a daily basis we are still talking about thousands lost to AIDS and thousands newly infected with HIV. Why then is AIDS dropping off the media agenda?” she asked.

Media practitioners were reminded of the lasting contribution they can make to the AIDS response. “You have the potential to influence attitudes, behaviour and even policy making,” she told participants.

In an expression of their commitment to step up action on AIDS within the media, participants from the Asian media concluded the meeting by endorsing a declaration of commitment to give more airtime, more resources and to increase cross-outlet collaboration on programme making and reporting, UNAIDS said.

They agreed to form the Asia-pacific media AIDS Initiative to develop a collaborative plan and timeline to expand the media response to AIDS in the region.

The event was organized by the Asia-Pacific Institute for Broadcasting Development, UNAIDS, The Asia Pacific Leadership Forum on AIDS and Development, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and ISIS Malaysia.