Advancing Girls Education in Africa (Age Africa) HIV and Aids prevention advocate Ulanda Mtamba has stressed the need for journalists to be equipped with the right information on HIV prevention and research to effectively disseminate the same to the public.
She was speaking in Blantyre on Friday when Age Africa held a training in HIV prevention and new HIV technologies for journalists.
“We regard journalists as key partners who disseminate different information that concerns the masses,” she said.
Mtamba said there is need to ensure that new HIV prevention technologies are embraced and proper information transmission through the media is key to achieving this.
Among the new HIV technologies she mentioned was the intravaginal silicone ring, a product developed by the International Partnership for Microbicides that contains the antiretroviral drug dapivirine to reduce women’s risk of contracting HIV by approximately 54 percent .
“As we know, most women are vulnerable when it comes to HIV. Most cannot use a condom, for example, without seeking permission from their partners. The ring is a prevention tool that will protect women from contracting the virus,” she said.
Mtamba said currently, the ring, which has undergone clinical trials in Malawi and other countries, has been found to be effective and is going through regulatory approval.
“We are waiting and hoping that it may be available for use around 2019 or 2020,” she said.
On his part, Civil Society Advocacy Forum for HIV and Related Conditions national chairperson David Kamkwamba said the media is a strong ally of the civil society.
He said: “We constantly need to update the media on developments that are taking place in the HIV sector so they can effectively communicate the same to the public.”
Kamkwamba, who is also executive director of Network of Journalists Living with HIV, said there is need for more emphasis for people to know their status and start treatment as research has shown it prevents transmission.
According to Age Africa, HIV in Malawi is on the decline, with new infections reducing from 55 000 in 2011 to 34 000 in 2013.
“However, at least half of these new infections occur among females aged 15-24, being four times higher than males of the same age,” the organisation notes, adding women are disproportionately impacted by HIV due to a combination of biological make-up, gender inequities and low socio-economic status.