Friday, 23 May 2014
News reports about AIDS began to decline in the early 1990s, but last year figures for the number of HIV cases in Western Australia were the highest on record. So have we become blasé about the disease?
A pilot project run by Associate Professor Trevor Cullen, in collaboration with WA Aids Council, aims to improve public awareness through empowering people who live with HIV and work with HIV organisations to share their own stories and experiences.
Professor Cullen, from the School of Communications and Arts, is an expert in health journalism and on reporting infectious diseases, especially AIDS. For almost 25 years he has been writing about AIDS and running workshops for journalists on reporting HIV in countries in Africa, Asia and the Pacific where the disease is a daily problem.
This project, Beyond the Red Ribbon: Improving HIV and STD awareness through media education programs, will enable the media, community service providers and health professionals to work more effectively to share and convey accurate and balanced information to a wide range of audiences on both HIV and STI’s allowing for a better understanding and response to these diseases.
“HIV is on the increase in Australia and especially in WA. Admittedly, it’s from a small base but it’s still a worrying increase,” Professor Cullen said.
“Research has shown that if effectively used, the media can lessen fear and stigma which are the biggest obstacles to seeking information and treatment.”
The ECU-led media education and training sessions will commence on 26th May 2014 for WA Aids Council staff. It encourages participants to be pro-active in sharing their stories and experiences with the media, and in turn, widen both coverage and understanding of the disease.
WA Aids Council Chief Excecutive, Andrew Burry, thinks that what the participants learn from the training will undoubtedly benefit their organisation.
“Perhaps more importantly, it can provide a template for an approach that can be rolled out on a national level,” said Mr Burry.
Professor Cullen will also deliver media training workshops for HIV leaders at the International AIDS conference in Melbourne on 26 and 27 July where up to 15,000 delegates from 180 countries are expected to attend, making it one of the largest gatherings on a health issue ever held in Australia.