UNICEF Says Journalists Fail to Break Silence on HIV/AIDS

ADDIS ABABA, Oct. 30 (ENA) - A United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) official said African journalists have failed to break the conspiracy of silence about HIV/AIDS when the epidemic is killing millions of people annually.

Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Director of UNICEF, Urban Jonsson made the remark at a news conference he gave here yesterday at the United Nations Conference Centre (UNCC).

He said African journalists did not play a significant role in creating awareness among the society about HIV/AIDS.  "They (journalists) did nothing at all."

"African journalists should pay much more attention.  They need to be original to break the silence, not contributing to the silence," Jonsson said.

"Conventional warfare could never kill as many people as HIV/AIDS does," Jonsson said.

"You (journalists) have the role to play in informing people about the reality.  In Africa HIV/AIDS kills 2 million able young people each year," he added.

The media can be essential tools in combating HIV/AIDS but African media had done little in the fight against the pandemic, Jonsson added.

In South Africa for example, he said, Nelson Mandela and Tabo Mbeki had managed to break the conspiracy of silence a few months ago by calling 100 people living with HIV/AIDS and tried to educate the people there about the pandemic.

"That was a tremendous political decision to break the silence," Jonssion said, adding, "the political leadership don't feet any stigmatisation of talking about this problem."

Jonsson was here to address the African Development Forum that ended here Thursday and make a working visit to Ethiopia.

Speaking about Ethiopia, he said, the Government of Ethiopia is doing its level best in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

However, he said, much effort should be exerted to breaking the silence here about the pandemic in Ethiopia as the country has the largest number of AIDS orphans that stands at 800,000.

He said UNICEF has agreed with the Ethiopian Government to launch a voluntary HIV/AIDS test programme in the country in the near future.

While here, he had held talks with President Negaso Gidada and had assured him of UNICEF's support in the fight against HIV/AIDS.