On air, and talking about HIV/AIDS
By Papri Sri Rajan Aug 12, 2007, 7:35 GMT
Chennai, Aug 12 (IANS) Talking about HIV/AIDS is not easy. Giving voice to fears and getting reassured by your favourite heroes is what radio stations in India are now doing, thanks to training given to radio jockeys and participation by stars.
Chennai's popular radio channel Radio Mirchi, in association with the Heroes Project - the largest non-governmental public service campaign in India - and the Satyam Foundation has begun a month-long initiative to address AIDS-related issues directly and provide the common man answers, which everyone can listen to.
Radio City journalist Gobinath Chandran produced two radio programmes on AIDS treatment that won him the National Press Foundation fellowship to participate in the Fourth International AIDS Society conference in Sydney this July.
The Internews Training and Resource Centre (ITRC) is training Gopinath and many other radio journalists in Chennai, with USAID.
The ITRC has completed training for two batches of radio journalists and 'this is the first time in India that such training is being offered', says Jaya Sridhar of Internews.
Virginia Moncrieff of the Australian Broadcasting Corp, who has been training Indian journalists for a year now, told IANS: 'Radio is a very vibrant media.'
She has also trained radio journalists in Sri Lanka, Palestine, the Maldives and Aceh after the 2004 tsunami.
Giving the example of coverage of the earthquake in Kashmir, she says: 'Community radio has taken off very well there. And this is the first time people have had a voice.'
She trained women with very low literacy rates in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province in 2005, after the quake.
'They had never seen a computer before ... we taught them how to edit voice programmes on the computer. It increased their self-esteem greatly.'
After disaster management, now it's healthcare that has emerged out of the FM radio.
'To be able to talk freely about some extremely sensitive issues, I think it is a hurdle', says Moncrieff.
'People (radio jockeys) are now willing to learn how to get over the issues.
People need information. They (the RJs) see themselves now as agents of change,' she notes.
Says Radio Mirchi station director Mahesh Shetty: 'Being one of the leading radio channels, we thought it is our responsibility to spread the message of AIDS and address issues of importance to the public.
'We are indeed happy to be partnering in the Heroes Project for this initiative.'
The Radio Mirchi campaign was conceived to dispel myths and misconceptions that prevail in the minds of people even 20 years into the epidemic.
Using the strengths of the radio as a medium, the campaign was rolled out in two main segments from Aug 6.
To enable wider connect with the listeners, Radio Mirchi style messages are disseminated throughout the day, addressing issues of care and support, stigma and discrimination.
The highlight of the campaign is the celebrity quiz. For two weeks, every day, a new question is asked by a different celebrity on HIV/AIDS, thereby addressing myths and misconceptions related to the issue.
The answers are given by members of the Tamil film industry including Kamal Haasan, Sharath Kumar, Radhika, Khushboo, Madhavan, Gouthami, Revathy and Vivek among others.
Says actress Revathy, associated with AIDS awareness campaigns for long and director of 'Phir Milenge': 'It is time now to come right out with it, up front and talk about sex and sexually transmitted diseases like AIDS.'
In addition to the messages given, a helpline number (044-2534 5555), manned by PSI Saadhan, is also provided so listeners can call for further information and referral services.
Speaking on the initiative, Vinita Sidhartha, state director of Heroes Project says: 'HIV as an issue continues to be surrounded by misconceptions.
'By mainstreaming the issue and providing an entertaining platform, together with proactive involvement from top celebrities, Radio Mirchi, Satyam Foundation and its Red Ribbon Clubs (for HIV awareness of youth) and PSI Saadhan, this programme expects to address these myths head on.'
As the campaign pans out, Radio Mirchi jockeys interact with people at Satyam Foundation, the corporate social responsibility arm of Satyam Computer Services Ltd, to understand their efforts on the issue.
© 2007 Indo-Asian News Service