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AFRO-NETS> Workshop on science of HIV for journalists
- Subject: AFRO-NETS> Workshop on science of HIV for journalists
- From: Omololu Falobi <email@example.com>
- Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2001 11:54:09 -0400 (EDT)
Workshop on science of HIV for journalists
Journalists Against AIDS (JAADS) Nigeria held a three-day workshop on
the Science of HIV for journalists between August 30 and September 1
The objectives of the workshop were:
* to expose Nigerian journalists to an understanding of the scien-
tific basis of the HIV/AIDS epidemic;
* identify and discuss constraints facing journalists in reporting
HIV science and
* equip journalists with the skills and tools to report effectively
on the science of HIV/AIDS.
The workshop held at the training room of the Media Resource Centre
on HIV/AIDS at Ogba, Lagos. Twenty-four journalists from both print
and electronic media, and four other participants representing youth
groups, NGOs and the Nigerian Institute of Medical Research partici-
pated in the workshop.
Drawing from a pool of experienced medical researchers and science
reporters, the workshop took participants through over 14 different
sessions comprising presentations and group discussions on various
aspects of HIV science. Facilitators included Dr. Oni Idigbe, Direc-
tor-General of the Nigeria Institute of Medical Research (NIMR); Dr.
Dan Onwujekwe of NIMR's HIV/AIDS Reference Laboratory; Dr. Morenike
Ukpong of Obafemi Awolowo University Teaching Hospital, Ile-Ife; and
Mr. Akin Jimoh, Program Director of Development Communications.
Others were Dr. Pat Matemilola, Coordinator of the Nigerian Network
of People Living with HIV/AIDS; Mr. Ebenezer Durojaiye, a Legal Offi-
cer with the Centre for the Right to Health; Mr. Obi Oluigbo, deputy
national operations manager of the Society for Family Health; and Mr.
Omololu Falobi, Project Director of JAAIDS.
In his opening presentation on the first day of the workshop, Dr.
Idigbe took reporters on a journey of discovery with the HIV virus.
Starting with initial studies that identified the virus and diagnosed
the AIDS syndrome, he explained the classification and structure of
HIV and how the virus works within the human system, binding itself
to the receptor present on the surface of CD4 T-lymphocytes. With use
of graphs and slides, he took participants through such an under-
standing of such scientific jargons as reverse transcriptase, RNA,
DNA, the synthesis of the viral protein and the biochemical reaction
that enables the virus to identify new target cells.
Idigbe also explained how nucleoside analogues, non-nucleoside ana-
logues (reverse transcriptase inhibitors) and protease inhibitors -
the three major drug therapies for management of HIV/AIDS - work to
stop the replication of the virus.
Despite many of the participants' previous non-familiarity with sci-
entific presentations, they were able to follow through the presenta-
tion, as an evaluation of the session revealed. One of the journal-
ists commented that he found the session "illuminating"; another com-
mended the facilitator for making the presentation "simple enough".
The next presenter, Dr. Onwujekwe of NIMR's HIV/AIDS Reference Labo-
ratory, spoke on opportunistic infections (OIs) and the HIV/TB/STI
co-epidemics. He drew a link between the growing incidence of tuber-
culosis in Nigeria and the HIV pandemic, pointing out that recent
studies show 17% HIV prevalence among TB patients in the country. He
also canvassed for journalists to devote greater focus on opportunis-
tic infections, noting that many of the OIs are curable and their
management will assure a better life for people living with HIV/AIDS.
In the afternoon session, Dr. Ukpong spoke on 'HIV, ARVs and alterna-
tive therapies'. Drawing from her experience as a volunteer with Liv-
ing Hope Care, a support group for people living with HIV/AIDS based
in a rural area in south-western Nigeria, she gave an overview of
care and support in the context of HIV/AIDS and the benefits and
weaknesses of antiretrovirals versus natural herbal treatments.
She shared her experience providing care for PLWAs in Osun state
through Living Hope Care, a group run by an experienced nurse. The
support group uses plants and herbs found in the locality to success-
fully treat OIs such as thrush, skin rashes etc. The group has also
established collaboration with pharmacologists at the Obafemi Awolowo
University who conduct extensive studies on the herbs and evaluate
their efficacy. Not surprisingly, the session attracted great inter-
est from participating journalists and many promised to follow-up on
the work of the support group.
The final session of the day was on ethical and human rights issues
surrounding the HIV/AIDS epidemic and it was delivered by Durojaye, a
lawyer with the Center for the Right to Health. Again, many of the
journalists found the presentation very interesting; quite a few com-
mented that they did not have such knowledge of the ethical and human
rights aspects of HIV/AIDS.
Earlier in the morning session, Ukpong had taken the workshop par-
ticipants through an examination of journalists' attitudes and ap-
proaches to HIV/AIDS, which revealed that many of the journalists,
while displaying some grasp of the basics of HIV/AIDS, did not have
any previous training on the scientific aspects of the pandemic. In a
follow-up session, she subsequently took journalists on a crash
course titled 'HIV 101 - Basics of HIV/AIDS'
The second day of the workshop was devoted to presentations, case
studies and group discussions on reporting HIV science, including re-
porting claims of AIDS cure. The sessions were facilitated by Mr.
Akin Jimoh, a veteran science reporter of over 10 years experience.
Jimoh, who recently completed a one-year Knight Science Journalism
fellowship at Harvard, United States led the sessions using multi-
media presentations, including slides, animated videos and Power-
Point. The journalists found the sessions 'thoroughly enjoyable', if
a bit crowded.
On the third and final day of the workshop, Omololu Falobi, Project
Director of JAAIDS led participants on a session on Behaviour Change
Communication (BCC) and also facilitated a discussion on why HIV/AIDS
is the story of the decade. Many of the journalists were hearing
about behaviour change communication for the first time, and re-
quested a future workshop on that subject. Participants also agreed
that HIV/AIDS is the biggest story in the last two decades. An inter-
esting discovery made during the session was that six of the 26 par-
ticipants in the room knew a friend or close relative who had died of
AIDS, a significant revelation given that many Nigerians still deny
the existence of HIV/AIDS.
In other sessions, Matemilola, a medical doctor living with HIV,
chaired discussions on reporting people living with HIV/AIDS. He
shared his experience living with the virus and spoke of the pains
people with HIV/AIDS go through when stigmatized or unfairly por-
trayed in media reporting. He took participants through a discussion
on correct and appropriate use of language in reporting HIV, espe-
cially HIV science. He also took on participants' questions about
claims of AIDS cures and spoke as a person who has interacted with
quite a few of the cure claimants, declaring that none of the claims
being promoted in Nigeria as a cure for AIDS have passed scientific
In another session, Mr. Obi Oluigbo of the Society for Family Health
spoke on 'Condoms: Myths and Reality'. Against the backdrop of un-
proven but persistent complaints that condoms sold in Nigeria were of
inferior quality, he explained the production processes of the popu-
lar condom brands marketed by SFH, emphasising that the products go
through stringent quality control measures undertaken both by SFH and
the Nigerian health ministry. He offered to take journalists on a fa-
cility tour of his organisation's quality control laboratory; encour-
aging the workshop organisers to arrange such a tour as soon as pos-
sible. The session was very interactive, and helped to dispel popular
myths about the condom. In a side contribution, Ms. Princess Olufemi-
Kayode of JAAIDS gave a short presentation on recent advances in HIV
prevention, especially microbicides and the female condom.
Many of the participants described the workshop as "an eye-opener",
"illuminating", "highly beneficial" and "qualitative". They encour-
aged Journalists Against AIDS (JAAIDS) to organise similar workshops
and follow-up activities for journalists across the country.
Funding support for the workshop was provided by the Futures Group
International as part of an on-going project grant to JAAIDS.
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