Saba’s success with HIV/AIDS promotion highlighted in Vienna

by Nerissa Golden

VIENNA, Austria (July 16, 2010) – Island Council Member Carl Buncamper presented Saba’s story during the second day of the Caribbean Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS (CBMP) workshop to six regional media practitioners attending the AIDS 2010 conference in Vienna on Thursday.

Buncamper recounted that more than twenty years ago the stigma associated with persons living with HIV/AIDS was “very high” but that has waned somewhat with more groups lending their support to the local AIDS Support Group.

The government official, who is living with HIV, said the opportunity to run in the elections and be the third largest vote getter was an indication of the changes in attitude towards persons living with the disease. Buncamper added that gaining the support of the four main religious denominations on the island to work with persons dealing with the illness has created an environment for people to communicate more openly with spiritual leaders about their status.

Also presenting at the workshop was Roosevelt Jean-Francois of CECOSIDA in Haiti, who spoke about the role of the media in spreading the word about the need for our people to live positively. CECOSIDA is a CBMP partner who has adapted LIVE UP The Show to meet the needs of their Creole-speaking audience. He spoke to the impact An’n Viv, which means Let’s Live has had in Haiti. In 2009 only 400 people were tested during Regional Testing Day, this year over 1000 people participated in the programme.

Buncamper told the journalists that the HIV/AIDS story has to be more than coverage of World AIDS Day and Regional Testing Day. “There are so many stories linked to HIV and AIDS that don’t deal with these events. So many organizations are now supporting our work and you can build stories about them and their overall work. HIV will still become part of that conversation, even indirectly.”

Many of the Caribbean nations are expected to be represented at the conference although reduction in funding to HIV/AIDS groups has meant it will not be in the numbers as at previous AIDS conferences.

CBMP is sponsoring six Caribbean journalists to the conference to increase the awareness of regional media to covering stories dealing with HIV/AIDS. Nerissa Golden, Director of Information & Communications for the Government of Montserrat, Fabian Pierre from CCN TV6 Trinidad, and Diane McLetchie-Bradshaw, Carol Francis of JNN Jamaica, Julian Reid from ZNS in The Bahamas; and Mitzi Allen, Host of LIVE UP The Show and General Manager for HAMA TV Antigua. The journalists will all be filing daily reports back to their radio and television stations beginning on Monday, July 19.

AIDS 2010 officially opens on Sunday and will bring together more than 30,000 people who work in the field of HIV, persons living with HIV and other individuals committed to ending the pandemic.

Photo caption: (standing) Island Council Member Carl Buncamper and adviser to AIDS Support Group Saba, which was founded in 1990 speaks with journalists participating in the Caribbean Broadcasting Media Partnership on HIV/AIDS workshop. Roosevelt Jean-Francois (sitting) of Haiti sits next to Dr. Allyson Leacock, Director of the CBMP. The workshop was a preparatory training leading up to the start of the AIDS 2010 conference which opens in Vienna, Austria on Sunday, July 18, 2010. (Photo by Nerissa Golden)

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