Combating HIV/AIDS in Africa

 

Combating HIV/AIDS in Africa The World Bank Institute employs strategic communication to address HIV/AIDS in Africa

 

World Bank- July 1, 2002—In an effort to meet an overwhelming need for information regarding HIV/AIDS, the World Bank Institute—in partnership with Bank’s External Affairs, the Africa Region, and the Bank’s overall AIDS efforts—has developed a program designed to fight the pandemic on three fronts: prevention, care, and mitigation.

 

As funds are mobilized to help the hardest-hit countries deal with care and prevention challenges, ministries and NGOs must be prepared to provide information about their activities and their use of resources. The media must also play its watchdog role in making sure that AIDS resources actually strengthen care and prevention efforts.

 

Millions of lives have been ravaged in the last two decades by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Nowhere is this crisis more acute than in Africa. According to a UNAIDS study, 3.4 million Africans were infected with HIV just in the last year, and an additional 2.3 million Africans died in that same year due to complications caused by AIDS. UNAIDS also reports that a whopping 28 million people—in Africa alone—are currently living with AIDS. It is time for a bold solution. But until that solution is found, the World Bank Institute has an important role to play.

 

An early phase of WBI’s AIDS leadership program is a course entitled, Fighting the HIV/AIDS Pandemic through Information and Strategic Communication: An Integrated Training Course for Program Teams and Journalists. This course will initially be offered to five African countries: Malawi, Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia. In this course, the WBI will help NGOs and ministries incorporate elements of effective communication into their programs, such as public service messages broadcast over radio, television, and in print media. The WBI will assist media professionals in covering HIV/AIDS not simply as a health problem but as a threat to every development objective their countries have embraced.

 

The WBI is working with members of local communities, civil society, the media, and government, on finding ways to combat the persistent stigma attached to those suffering from HIV/AIDS. HIV is sometimes referred to as the "Silence Virus" because of a virtual censorship on speaking openly about the virus. This is a deadly silence. It has crippled previous attempts to help people understand HIV/AIDS and how to prevent themselves from contracting HIV. Timothy Carrington, who manages WBI courses for media professionals, said that "in a situation where there is neither a vaccine nor a cure, the role of communication is very important." Effective communication and correct information can "help more people avoid the devastating effects of this disease," he said.