The media should play a significant role in educating people on HIV/AIDS and raise awareness about it, as the people of the country have limited knowledge about the disease, said discussants at a roundtable yesterday.
With reports, views and analysis, mass media could also contribute to break the silence which is decisive to remove the sense of social stigma about the infection and arrest transmission of the deadly disease, they observed.
Doctors, development partners, NGO activists and government officials took part in the discussion styled “Role of media in HIV prevention in Bangladesh”. The Daily Star and UNFPA jointly organised the discussion at The Daily Star Centre in Dhaka.
Addressing the roundtable, UNFPA Country Representative in Bangladesh Arthur Erken called for collaboration between HIV/AIDS prevention and service providers, and the media to disseminate information among people.
Emphasising capacity building of the media, Arthur Erken, who moderated the discussion, said more human interest stories should be run on the issue.
UNAIDS Country Coordinator in Bangladesh Leo Kenny said the media should run more investigative stories on the expenditure of fund provided by the development partners to fight HIV/AIDS.
Popular faces and famous people should be involved in the awareness campaigns to help contain the disease, he added.
The Daily Star Editor and Publisher Mahfuz Anam stressed gathering of knowledge and experience from Africa, Europe, the US and other countries on how the media there had handled the issue over the last few years.
He also emphasised bringing regional and international experts for gaining knowledge.
BBC Bangla Service Editor Sabir Mustafa said the media should run stories to educate people, but it should not be a part of any project with development partners as it might raise questions about the credibility of the initiative.
He added that all the stories to be chosen for newspapers should be newsworthy.
Associate Editor of the Prothom Alo Abdul Quayum said the campaign for disseminating information on HIV/AIDS should be strengthened keeping special focus on the expatriate Bangladeshi workers.
Khandaker Ezazul Haque, HIV focal point of UNFPA, Bangladesh, said the media should play a supportive role to create a congenial atmosphere so that people can discuss openly about the disease.
He said messages should be published in such attractive ways that they could draw people's attention.
Zeenat Sultana, deputy director of Bangladesh Centre for Communication Programme (BCCP), said messages like there is a link between early marriage and HIV infection should be focused in media.
MS Mukti, executive director of Mukto Akash Bangladesh, urged media policymakers to bring out supplementary issues or programmes on HIV/AIDS on a weekly or monthly basis.
Habiba Akhter, executive director of Ashar Alo Society, said information like where an infected can get service, test facility and information about the disease should also be covered by the media.
Project Coordinator of Family Planning Association of Bangladesh Hasina Shipra said detailed information, not just a line or so, and messages should be published in the media.
ABM Kamrul Ahsan, HIV and AIDS specialist of UN office on Drugs and Crime in Bangladesh, said it should be also taken care of that correct and complete information is disseminated.
Kazi Ali Reza, officer-in charge of United Nations Information Centre (UNIC), said it was important that the people were told how they can remain safe from the disease.
Md Enamul Haque, national consultant-HIV/AIDS of World Health Organisation, Bangladesh Country office, said there were many hidden cases of HIV infection in Bangladesh. If these cases are not identified, it is not possible to bring down the infection rate to zero.
Brig Gen Shahedul Anam Khan ndc, psc (retd), editor of Op-Ed and Strategic Affairs of The Daily Star, delivered welcome speech at the roundtable.
Samir K Howlader, national programme officer of International Organisation for Migration, Bangladesh office; Akhtar Jahan Shilpy, technical specialist of National AIDS/ STD programme of the government; Syed Kamrul Hasan, coordinator of Bangladesh NGOs Network for Radio and Communication, Arunthia Zaidi Urmi, manager (counselling and training-HIV/ AIDS unit) of ICDDR,B; ASM Rahmat Ullah Bhuiyan, programme manager (project-DIVA) of Bandhu Social Welfare Society, Tahmidul Islam and Moumita Datta Gupta, members of UNFPA Youth Forum spoke at the discussion, among others.