Media Dialogue With AIDS-Affected Children

To commemorate World AIDS Day, December 1, 2010 some AIDS affected children from Lucknow, Sultanpur, and Bara Banki districts of Uttar Pradesh, had a dialogue with the media at the Uttar Pradesh Press Club. The Uttar Pradesh Welfare For people living with HIV/AIDS (UPNP+) supported by UNICEF and Media Nest, a pan India body of Media professionals, facilitated this one hour long interaction under 'Media for Children'. Read more

The session saw children from different age groups have a direct dialogue with Media persons. They talked about discrimination at school, society and in health services. They rued about how nobody wants to make friends with them, with even their relatives maintaining a safe distance from them for fear of infection. Many had lost their parents and sibling to AIDS and were hurt and humiliated the way they were treated by their relatives and neighbours. The shared it all-- the pain, the trauma and the pathos of being AIDS affected children.

While UNICEF AIDS specialist Dr Khanindra Bhuyan, communication specialist Augustine Veliath, Meena Jadav, UNICEF AIDS (Primary Prevention) consultant and senior members of the UPNP+ were present, there were no formal presentations by the adults in the session.  The floor was left entirely to the children, many of them infected, but all of them ‘affected’ by HIV /AIDS. Many of these children were orphans –HIV/AIDS had claimed one (and in many cases both) of their parents. They had sisters and brothers who had died due to AIDS. All the children talked with great emotion about their traumatic living in a society that has a lot of misconceptions about HIV/ AIDS. They had to cope with not only the loss of their near ones, but also had to deal with the discrimination that they had to face as they were “AIDS affected.” 

The children spoke about their lives, their aspirations. They delved upon stigma at home, in the society, in schools, and at the hands of health providers.
 They spoke about their emotional trauma due to rude behaviour of service providers including teachers, and also the absence of facilities as well as lack of opportunities

While the electronic media persons had not been invited to this session, even the print media photographers had been requested not to click photographs or use the real names of the children. This was an attempt to guard the privacy of these very special children. The media persons were asked to freely interact with the children on a one to one basis or in groups.

“The children had total freedom. They talked reality; they talked about life as they actually lived it. It was bound to touch hearts, it did” said Dr Bhuyan, who was one of the silent observers in this session.

The media and the general public (including educators and health workers) can be partners in this noble task of ensuring social acceptability for these special children, by respecting their dignity and privacy, and by encouraging and reassuring them in all possible ways.

Kulsum Mustafa
(The author is a senior journalist and also serves as Secretary General of Media Nest

Published in:      
Citizen News Service (CNS), India/Thailand 
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International News and Views, India