Dr. Tudor Vlad participating in discussion.

Dr. Tudor Vlad Discusses Instructional Issues at UNESCO Workshop on HIV/AIDS in Kenya

How to raise public awareness and provide information about HIV/AIDS. How to promote prevention of HIV and to publish facts about the epidemic. How to give AIDS a human face without reporting the identities of those who have been infected. How to confront stigmatization and taboo subjects. How to conduct training programs and develop a journalism curriculum.

These were the topics discussed by journalists from 12 African countries who attended a four-day workshop on HIV/AIDS and investigative reporting in Nairobi, Kenya, June 5-8, 2002.

The workshop was organized by the Office of Communication Adviser for Eastern Africa of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). UNESCO has developed a new strategy to educate and inform people across the region on HIV/AIDS. This seminar with representatives of national journalism associations was the second major activity of this program, following a workshop for women journalists on HIV/AIDS reporting. The seminar for representatives of the national journalism associations took place at the Hilton Hotel in Nairobi.

Dr. Tudor Vlad, assistant director of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, was one of the five non-African experts participating in the workshop.

The goal of the workshop was to help African journalists develop new skills in covering the complex problems related to HIV/AIDS in a part of the world where one in four adults in some cities are HIV-positive. In the past, HIV/AIDS was viewed as a public health problem to be solved by the governments, but it cannot be viewed only as an institutional concern, the journalists were told. The role of the journalists is to inform, educate and increase understanding of HIV/AIDS in Africa and collaborate at the regional level.

"You are armed with the power of the pen," said Dr. Kwame Boafo, chief of the UNESCO Communications and Media Office in Paris. "You can and you must reach the people and make them understand all the issues related to HIV/AIDS."

Boafo said it was his goal to build a network among media and support the production of dissemination of information, data, research among journalists. "Then, it is your responsibility to make this information available to the public, in a way that will impact as many and as diverse categories as possible," he told the journalists.

The group also was told about the the UNESCO seminar for women journalists in Africa by Alonso Aznar, chief media advisor in East and Central Africa for UNESCO. "Empowering women journalists is crucial to promoting understanding of HIV/AIDS," he said.

Clayton Haswell, president of World Free Press Institute and chief of the San Francisco bureau of the Associated Press, emphasized the relationship between freedom of the press and ethical journalism. "If we love life, we must care," said Haswell. "Are we covering important stories only as feature stories? Or are we revealing the economic impact of AIDS? Finally, I would ask: do we protect the rights of the poor and oppressed?"

Cox Center Assistant Director Vlad spoke about the importance of training programs among journalists and about the development of journalism curricula in emerging democracies. He outlined the international work of the Cox Center and recommended that workshop organizers always collaborate with local partners as a successful strategy to maximize the impact of the training programs. Dr. Vlad gave as examples curricula designed by the Cox Center in collaboration with local mass communication educators in Ethiopia, Kosovo, Romania, and Ukraine.

"We need to help you identify partners for future joint projects, but we want you to participate as trainers yourselves," Dr. Vlad told the participants. "Your expertise is valuable and we can find together the best solution to produce and communicate information on HIV/AIDS."

Health coverage and health reporting should be a significant component of any journalism curricula in areas such as Africa, Dr. Vlad said, and it should be incorporated into the curricular of universities and into short-term training programs.

Other experts participating in the workshop were: Patricia Made, IPS, Rome; Lawrence Mute, program coordinator, Center for Law and International research, Kenya; Anthony Ngaiza, executive director, Media Institute, Tanzania; Marcia Parker, director, America Online; Robert Porterfield, investigative reporter, USA; A.D.O. Rachier, director of KELIN, Kenya; and Tatiana Repkova, director for Europe, World Free Press Institute, Slovakia.