MEDIA BEWARE: How to avoid stigma when reporting on HIV
AS news broke this morning that a major Hollywood celebrity plans to reveal he is living with HIV on American morning television, along came the inevitable misrepresentation of HIV and deluge of ignorant comments on social media and news websites.
Star Observer will not name the celebrity as we believe it is up to every individual to disclose their status when and how they see fit, but you can Google the story here.
[showads ad=MREC]One of the biggest obstacles to beating HIV is stigma.
As UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said: “HIV stigma remains the single most important barrier to public action… it helps make AIDS the silent killer, because people fear the social disgrace of talking about it or taking easily available precautions. Stigma is the chief reason why the AIDS epidemic continues to devastate societies around the world.”
One of the biggest concerns is how the media will cover this news and the impact it could have on people living with HIV.
“I caution journalists on how they represent this,” Living Positive Victoria chief executive Brent Allan said.
“They should be warned… the power of words is profound.
“People coming out as HIV positive is a good thing and we should be supporting this. It is completely nullified when we use words like victim or perpetrator.”
Allan goes on to say any journalists who use stigmatising language could force people “back into the closet” or put them off getting tested.
“Media who do not take care with their language… will be adding to the public health crisis,” he said.
The actor’s public disclosure of his HIV status should be applauded according to Allan, not only because it is an “incredibly brave thing to do”, but also because it makes it easier for other people living with HIV.
“There are people who are janitors and teachers and doctors and lawyers who don’t have the bravery to come out… it makes it easier for all of us,” he said.
Allan believes we can undermine HIV as more people go public with their status and has a great line to use around the water cooler when talking to colleagues and friends about this news: “Isn’t it fantastic he came out as positive, wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone had that resilience.”