Caribbean Media Combat HIV/AIDS

Caribbean Media Combat HIV/AIDSIt is widely accepted that one of the most effective ways to respond positively to HIV/AIDS and ensure behavior change is through the acceptance and dissemination of accurate information. It is also widely accepted that the broadcast industry is poised to be the leader in this exercise through the power of its reach and influence.

To this end, the Caribbean broadcasters now have at their fingertips an online interactive tool to aid them in HIV/AIDS research as well as to empower them to produce accurate and innovative HIV/AIDS programming. This online tool was launched recently in Jamaica.

The Caribbean Broadcast Media Partnership (CBMP) on HIV/AIDS developed the tool with the financial and technical support of the UNESCO Kingston Cluster Office for the Caribbean. The interactive tool was created specifically for regional broadcasters to enhance their ability to produce and disseminate accurate content in HIV/AIDS in the Caribbean region. The tool is easily accessible as it is now a permanent part of CBMP’s LIVE UP website.

Established in 2006, at a regional summit of media executives on HIV/AIDS, organised by the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation, the Caribbean Broadcasting Union and the Kaiser Family Foundation in Bridgetown, Barbados, CBMP consists of 92 top broadcasters from 24 countries in the region’s first coordinated media response to the HIV pandemic. The Partnership creates a structured framework for sharing information and resources among broadcasters that significantly expands HIV/AIDS related programming and public education activities across the Caribbean. Member broadcasters deliver HIV/AIDS information through a variety of platforms and formats, including targeted public service announcements (PSAs), entertainment programming, news and public affairs programming and online resources.

In 2007, CBMP launched LIVE UP – the Caribbean’s first media-led regional initiative that links people together with one message of hope and inspires everyone to consider what is within their power to stem the spread of HIV/AIDS.  CBMP is the regional action arm of the Global Media AIDS Initiative (GMAI) a UN-supported initiative by the Kaiser Family Foundation in partnership with UNAIDS to mobilize the world’s media in response to HIV/AIDS. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, the Elton John AIDS Foundation and The Ford Foundation are supporting partners of CBMP. It is also supported by Pan-Caribbean media companies, international media companies and regional groups that work on HIV/AIDS and the media.

The Partnership was born as a response to former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan’s call to action under the Global Media AIDS Initiative (GMAI). In January 2004, executives from around the world gathered at the UN Headquarters in New York for a meeting hosted by Mr. Annan, UNAIDS and the Kaiser Family Foundation to discuss the role of media corporations in addressing the global AIDS pandemic. As a concrete result of the meeting, Secretary General Annan launched the GMAI, which calls upon the world’s media leaders to use their resources to fight the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Since that initial gathering at the UN, there has been considerable activity around the globe by a number of GMAI media executives, including major new or expanded public education initiatives developed in partnership with media companies in India, Russia, South Africa and the United States (US). To support these efforts, national leadership sessions, modeled on the first session of the UN GMAI, have subsequently been organised to bring together executives from major regional broadcasters, including : Johannesburg (Southern Africa Media Leaders Summit on HIV/AIDS – October 2005); San Francisco (Public Broadcasters Global Media Leaders Summit on HIV/AIDS – May 2005); Delhi (India Media Leaders Summit on HIV/AIDS  –  January 2005); and Moscow (Eurasia Media Leaders Summit on HIV/AIDS – October 2004).

By sharing information and resources, and building their own capacity to develop and deliver HIV/AIDS themed programming content, CBMP broadcasters have established new, co-ordinated media initiatives that deliver life saving messages to help stem the spread of HIV/AIDS and fight its related stigma and discrimination. CBMP broadcasters cover a total estimated population of some 40 million people in the second most highly impacted region of the world by HIV/AIDS. This represents, by far, the single largest mobilization of media in response to any social issue in the region.

CBMP broadcast members have made HIV/AIDS a business priority, committing a minimum of 30 seconds of air time per hour (or about 12 minutes per day) to HIV/AIDS content as well as pledging to cover HIV/AIDS across all programme genres including news, public affairs, entertainment and new media platforms.

Convinced that the media have a critical role to play in the fight against HIV/AIDS and that Caribbean broadcasters can make a unique and important contribution to HIV/AIDS information dissemination, awareness, behavior change, as well as care and support in their countries and communities, broadcasters in 2006 committed to:

  • Develop policies, strategies and structures to ensure integration of HIV/AIDS as a core business priority and to designate staff, accountable to the General Manager, with responsibility for managing the company’s commitment per the Declaration
  • Integrate HIV/AIDS communication across various programme genres including entertainment, news and public service, new media platforms, and special events
  • Provide for dedicated and substantial television and radio broadcast airtime for HIV/AIDS related communication
  • Consult with HIV/AIDS stakeholders including people living with HIV/AIDS, civil society representatives and members of the scientific and medical communities to ensure that messaging, content and context are relevant, accurate, effectively communicated and culturally appropriate
  • Engage with regional institutions and partnerships, national governments and HIV/AIDS programmes and other in-country groups to coordinate with and compliment regional and national HIV/AIDS campaigns.

 

In applauding the new initiative, CBMP executive director, Dr. Allyson Leacock said “this tool will certainly provide media professionals with access to pertinent information, while helping them educate their audiences on the importance of the human rights of all people through the production and use of accurate content on HIV/AIDS”.

Dr. Kwame Boafo, UNESCO’s director for the Kingston Cluster Office for the Caribbean, sees this partnership as “an excellent opportunity to advance UNESCO’s objective for enhancing the capacity of communication professionals in the use of Behaviour Change Communication strategies in their efforts to contribute to comprehensive HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment, care and support”.

Before launching the new initiative, field demonstrations and orientation meetings on the use of the tool among broadcast media professionals were carried out by CBMP in Barbados, St. Maarten and Jamaica. Of the 42 member journalists surveyed about the tool, 93% of the respondents were satisfied that the interactive tool will be effective in increasing their awareness of HIV/AIDS in general. Another 97% indicated that the tool will improve their professional reporting on HIV/AIDS and a further 97% applauded this easy and secure access to vital information on HIV/AIDS.

One respondent noted that “an interactive tool like this is long overdue. It will enable access to up-to-date information on HIV/AIDS issues in the region. Not to mention, I can get a number of story ideas and report on them from a local perspective”.

Yet another respondent noted that “the thought of being able to access information on HIV easily will heighten my awareness of the epidemic and allow me to edify my listening and viewing audiences frequently”.

New Chair at CBMP

The former chairman of the Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the Board of the Barbados National HIV Commission, Dr. Carol Jacobs, was recently appointed as the new Chair of the CMBP Board of Trustees. Dr. Jacobs, who has over 20 years experience working in HIV both regionally and internationally, noted that she is looking forward to this new chapter of work with the regional charity “I have always felt the need to engage our media more fully in the Caribbean’s response to HIV, so CMBP’s request for my assistance is timely in providing a different path for me to continue my support of local and regional initiatives to stem the HIV epidemic”.

CBMP executive director, Dr. Allyson Leacock acknowledged that with her “vast experience, Dr. Jacobs is well placed to provide dynamic and effective leadership” as the charity continues to work at strengthening the response of regional broadcasters to HIV/AIDS matters.,“The CBMP is honoured to have someone of Dr. Jacobs’ caliber accepting the Board’s invitation to take over at the helm of our Board of Trustees, after being recommended by another distinguished global leader in the field of HIV, former chairman, Sir George Alleyne. Dr. Jacobs’ unique qualities of poise and diplomacy coupled with innovation and courage to confront the complexities of HIV in the region, are ideal for the institutional development and sustainability of the CBMP at this juncture”.

Dr. Jacobs has served as Chair of the Barbados National Advisory Committee on AIDS based in the Ministry of Health and has represented Barbados and the Caribbean on the Board of the WHO’s Global programme on AIDS and subsequently on the Program Coordinating Board of UNAIDS. She has been recognized by UNAIDS with the Gold Medal and is the sole recipient of the Barbados Gold Medal of Achievement, which was awarded by the government of Barbados in April 2006.

Joining Dr. Jacobs as new members of the CMBP Board of Trustees are general manager of the National Broadcasting Corporation of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and CBMP Steering Committee Chair, Ms. Corletha Ollivierre; GIPA Representative on the Global Fund Board and CMBP Champion Mr. Ainsley Reid of Jamaica and Managing Partner of KPMG Barbados, Ms. Carol Nicholls of Barbados. The remaining Board members are Dr. David McBean, CEO of CVM Communications Group in Jamaica and CMBP Executive Director.

Allison S. Ali

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