Media play a role in fight vs stigma on HIV-AIDS

Published by rudy Date posted on May 20, 2011

TAGAYTAY, Philippines — Stigma and discrimination against people infected with HIV in the Philippines have lessened over the years and the media played a role in this, a development worker said Friday.

Celestino Ramirez, a social development worker from the Positive Action Foundation Philippines Inc. (PAFPI), said people have become more informed about the dreaded disease and become responsive to the needs of people infected with the virus compared to about a decade ago.

Ramirez admitted that the media contributed greatly in changing the public perception and the manner of dealing with people carrying the disease.

Government data shows there are more than 6,000 reported HIV-AIDS cases in the Philippines as of the first quarter of 2011.

“Malaking bahagi ang nilalaman at content na lumalabas sa media at kung paano nila ipaalam ang karanasan ng isang may sakit upang hindi maging puro negatibo ang pagtingin sa kalagayan niya,” Ramirez said.

“Nagbago na lahat simula nang sila ay lumabas sa media. Naging tanggap na sila kaya malaking tulong ito ng media,” he added.

He also said that stigma and discrimination could be further reduced if the infected people develop a self-acceptance.

Ramirez claimed that HIV patients his group is helping are no longer being discriminated against, adding that other people would even come up to them and congratulate them for coming out in the open.

He said one of the several “significant” changes that he has observed throughout the 10 years that he has been working with the PAFPI was that health workers have become more informed about the disease and have realized that the virus could not easily be transmitted by touching the things infected individuals have touched.

“Ngayon, hindi na sinisipa ng mga nurse ang tray ng pagkain ng mga naka-confine nilang HIV patients. Dati kasi ay takot na takot silang lumapit,” he said.

Refocusing

However, Ramirez said the media could also help aggravate stigma and discrimination in the way news organizations’ frame their reports on HIV-AIDS-related stories.

He said the media should practice “refocusing” their presentations of HIV-AIDS related stories to highlight the “bright side” of the problem.

“Halimbawa, mag-focus sa struggle ng isang may sakit kung paano siya natuto sa buhay. Sa ganoon, maliwanag na nauunawan at hindi nabibigyan ng maling pagtanggap ang mga dinapuan ng sakit,” he said.

Ramirez said that people should be very cautious even in the way they converse with people suspected of carrying the virus.

“Let us also be sensitive in framing our questions,” Ramirez said, adding that people should not immediately assume people who are at high risk of having HIV-AIDS are already infected.

The group of people considered highly at risk of contracting the virus are men having sex with fellow men, female sex workers, and people injecting drugs into their bodies.

“Isa pong challenge sa amin ay ang ihanda at imulat ang mga tao tungkol sa HIV-AIDS [It’s a challenge for us to prepare and enlighten people about HIV-AIDS],” he said.

Stigma

However, Ramirez admitted that stigma on the dreaded disease continue to be strongest within the families of infected individuals.

He cited a person living with HIV (PLHIV) who was recently forced to resign from his job due to his infection, and was literally hacked wounded by his father upon learning his condition.

He cited an older documented case in Bicol in 2002 in which an infected woman suffered from discrimination after doctors found she and her son were carrying the virus.

The mother brought her son for a checkup and advised doctors to wear surgical gloves as a precautionary measure. Instead of heeding the woman’s advice, the doctors at the facility went hostile and drove the mother and son away.

Hospital officials also turned to local media to make public the condition of the two HIV-infected individuals. The mother and son were forced to flee their home town and sought refuge at the PAFPI.

Forty percent of PAFPI’s members are HIV positive, Ramirez said. — LBG, GMA News

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