Media Monitoring Africa (MMA), a leading human rights media research organisation, today released their report “Politics, medicine and disease: The story of HIV in the media from 2002”. The research examines how the coverage of HIV/AIDS has changed since 2003. Read the report.
More than 7 million South Africans are HIV-positive. This means that those living with HIV are two times more than the number of people living with diabetes in South Africa or 72 times more than those diagnosed with cancer annually. Despite the huge volume of people infected and affected by the virus, President Cyril Ramaphosa did not mention HIV/AIDS once in his 2019 State of the Nation Address. Why is that? Is the virus no longer a critical item on the political agenda? Does it no longer require the government or indeed the nation’s attention? Or is there something else at play?
Research conducted by MMA in the early 2000’s unpacked for the first time the ways in which South African media were covering the issue of the HIV/AIDS pandemic. At that time, medical and academic narratives dominated the discourse. Given that the virus continues to affect millions of South Africans on a daily basis and how the media landscape has changed so dramatically over the last 16 years, we wanted to look at how coverage has changed over time. For this report, we compared the quality of almost 600 news stories from a range of South African publications between 2002/2003 and 2017/2018. While our research reveals how the conversations about HIV/AIDS have moved in step with political winds, it clearly shows how the media continue to access the same types of sources year after year.
It is known that media can break the silence around certain diseases and that they can create an environment that encourages discussion and can change people’s behaviour. It is for these reasons that we need to keep an eye on how this important issue is reported and that it is kept in the spotlight. Read the report.