Pakistan’s journalists help promote HIV awareness

Photo by bobbyramakant“When my friend returned after 10 years of working abroad, he was already in the last stages of an AIDS-associated illness and he passed away in 2003,” said Dr Zahid Rana, one of more than 1000 Pakistani journalists that form the National Foundation.

“This event was the turning point in my life. I, who had been reporting as a journalist on so-called mainstream stories of relevance . . ., never imagined that HIV was lurking so closely in my courtyard,” Dr Rana said.

The National Foundation is a partner of AIDS Care Watch—a campaign launched by a civil society block comprising 450 organizations from around the world. The campaign was designed to raise awareness of the treatment available to people living with HIV and Dr Rana has acted as Pakistan’s Country Focal Point for the project for two years.

“We need to do all that is possible to engage communities in development programs that affect their lives. Much more can be done to keep people living with HIV alive and to strengthen prevention programs by a range of interventions and approaches,” Dr Rana said.

“Such programs, including those of HIV and AIDS, shouldn’t be running without the equal partnership of communities.”

Dr Rana has devoted himself to engaging journalists through a series of interventions to sensitize them to a number of social issues including HIV. One of the National Foundation’s goals is to increase awareness among journalists in Pakistan of the interconnected issues surrounding HIV and its affect on people’s lives.

Journalists play a key role in informing the public about HIV and AIDS and the print and electronic media reporters that make up the National Foundation are also dedicated to involving young people in the discourse surrounding the disease.

For the past few years the group has reached out to schools, colleges and other educational institutions, involving them in a range of interventions aimed at increasing information exchanges and promoting open dialogue.

“From 2009, we are going to scale up interventions to engage children and youth not in formal educational setups and are working as domestic help or as domestic labour in the unorganized sector,” Dr Rana said.

“Such children and young people, who are even struggling to have access to basic amenities to sustain life and often grow up in very violent circumstances that scale up their vulnerability enormously, need attention.”

Dr Rana is in Chiang Mai (northern Thailand) to attend the pre-conference Inter-faith meeting on HIV and was interview by Duangkamol Donchaum and Bobby Ramakant.

Bobby Ramakant-CNS