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Rationale for Agenda-setting Role of Media beyond Reporting HIV Responses

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By Erharuyi A. Joe

It is a given that knowledge evolves. History has confirmed that nothing remains static all through human existence. Things tend to change in order to adapt or conform to contemporary condition or environment.

When information on the Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV) was first publicised, knowledge was not as advanced as it is in today’s world. Some persons who contracted HIV were too quick to degenerate into the condition of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). The grave consequence caught the attention of the world to the extent that some messages could best be described as damaging as they created devastating effect in the lives of the infected and the affected alike.

The twist of events with the invention of the Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) and other HIV Responses, have made some previously held positions or information on HIV to be false or at best, half-truths. The media, especially the traditional media which was the main trend then, was agog with all manner of unverified and not well researched information.

However, with new inventions with verified and well researched body of knowledge, it is fair for such information to be disseminated with the utmost speed it deserves. It is only in this direction that lot of persons would be saved from the grave dangers of misinformation especially as it relates to HIV Responses in Edo State and Nigeria in general.

Maybe as a response to the pulse of the average Edo State resident, the media, even with the coming of the social media platforms with exponential effects on information dissemination, tend to selectively report on HIV Responses as they may be presented by primary stakeholders at intervals. Realities in our contemporary societies demands more than just reporting events on HIV Responses by the media.

The bitter pill to swallow is that all is not well. The Edo State Programme Data put the prevalence rate at 1.9% of HIV infection in the State, which is far higher than the national prevalence rate of 1.3%, and out of that population, about 32,000 persons were accessing treatment as at the end of 2022. Therefore, reporting news on HIV Responses alone would not turn the present situation to a rather better one if the media would not revisit and improve on its primary duties of informing, educating and entertaining the public in this regard.

The agenda setting theory according to McCombs and Shaw (1972), takes the position that by the media identification and reportage of certain issues as important or salient, while at the same time, other issues are not so selected and reported, the audience would associate corresponding importance to those issues selected and reported by the media.

Some proven ways which the media will achieve optimum dissemination of contemporary information is to be alive to its corporate social responsibility of providing the following services to the public concerning HIV Responses in the State – increase the quantity or frequency of reporting on HIV Responses; Give prominence to such reports through headline display, pictures and layout in newspapers magazines, film, graphics; or timing on radio/television as well as social media platforms.

Call-in programmes on radio/television where Persons Living with HIV (PLHIV) and the affected alike, are encouraged to share their experiences and challenges in order for solutions to be proffered through reliable referrals and information, should be organised by the electronic media. They should also feature authorities in HIV Responses to talk on salient contemporary issues in this regards; and other media and platforms should also utilise their spaces with the use of articles, dance, drama, amongst others.

In a nutshell, though various stakeholders may be doing well in their capacities to maximize the impact of their contributions toward HIV Responses, such approaches are best described as “working in silos” without the media optimizing its role to the society in the areas or information, education and entertainment. Such best approaches would amount to groping in the dark!

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