Dear Newscasters in Ghana, and particularly those who present the news in the local languages, and particularly again, in the Akan language, we would like to applaud you for the various ways in which you disseminate information to the understanding of many Ghanaians. You have helped in bringing relevant news to the understanding of many people.
However, you generally have some flaws in your presentation which are hurting people like us. We have observed with a lot of pain, the very disparaging words you use to describe HIV and especially persons living with HIV in your news items.
Some of you make it seem like everyone who has the HIV virus led a bad promiscuous life and should not be taken seriously.
More like, all of us living with HIV brought this situation upon ourselves so we should not be supported. Oh and some of you use barbaric words and situations to describe HIV and AIDS as if it is only animals who suffer from the condition.
We will not try to explain and justify the various means by which people get infected with HIV. However, we have a few questions. For instance, the now 20 year old boy who was born with HIV, does he fit into the promiscuous circle you have drawn, where HIV is concerned?
The faithful husband who got HIV through the adulterous wife, does he fit into your promiscuous circle? The Good Samaritan who offered help on an accident scene and somewhat had an incident of blood transfusion because of his own bruises and that of one victim who was in a much severe state, does he fall into it? That young girl who got defiled many times by her Uncle, does she fall into your category?
Currently, information is available at almost every corner, every phone, tablet and other computers you have in your offices. Internet is very present. Will there be any harm in any of you going to Google to type in a question about HIV\AIDS and educating yourselves before you come to sit on radio and blatantly disrespect us like that?
Should you take a ten minute Google search on HIV, for instance, we are certain you will know that treatment for HIV has advanced and that the antiretroviral drugs are able to sustain and give us a very healthy normal life. You will realize that a woman who is HIV positive can have a baby who is not HIV positive.
Again, you will know that a husband and wife who both have HIV can have a baby who does not have HIV. And, an HIV positive person can get married to an HIV negative person and they will be as healthy as any other normal couple. Yes, this is how far the HIV situation has being contained and how easy this information is available.
There is a news item on a seminar on HIV as part of your news. The President has spoken about a certain fund for HIV related projects. Some persons living with HIV are going on a sensitization drive. An HIV positive person has called on support from the public. And you make these news items seem like a waste of your airtime!
At all times when we listen to your descriptions of our condition, our hearts break. You make our HIV negative partners feel stupid for being with us. You make our children doubt whether they are indeed HIV negative. You make us want to hide and never come out again. Your audiences are large and very much uncountable.
Anytime you make such pronouncements, you single handedly, and in a few minutes mange to get a whole lot of people to increase their intolerance towards persons living with HIV. Stigma and discrimination kills faster than the HIV deteriorating to AIDS.
Your stigma and discrimination laden language is unfair, disrespectful and yes, we have not ceased to be human beings because of HIV. We are just like you.
At least we have gotten tested and we know our status. We are getting treatment and it is a wonderful thing for all of us. But you who sit on air and crucify us, have you ever gotten tested for HIV? When was the last time you checked?
Now should you realize you are HIV positive, will you see yourself as the worse of human beings? Will you describe your condition as you do now in your news items?
The mode of transmission is such that you may think you are far off. But hey, anything can happen any day. Today it is us, tomorrow it can be you.
Our plea is simple. Stop your stigma and discriminatory filled languages you use for us. You can come to us for some education and we will be more than pleased to offer you any educative materials you want. Use your medium to educate, and not to misinform people.
***Sentiments drawn from some persons living with HIV.***
By Sakyiwaa Mensah