A three-day HIV/AIDS capacity building workshop for 15 community radio journalists in the south and eastern parts of the country has taken place at the Diema Entertainment Centre in Kenema.
The workshop was organized by the Initiative for Mobile Training of Community Radio (Informotrac) Sierra Leone, sponsored by the National AIDS Secretariat (NAS) and UNAIDS.
The station manager of the Sierra Leone Broadcasting Service (SLBS) FM 93.5 in Kenema earlier welcomed all participants to Kenema, and appealed to participants to make good use of the knowledge they would acquire and to adequately make use of the broadcasting equipment by making sure that the programme succeeded.
The National Programme Officer-cum-OIC of UNAIDS, Bockarie Samba, said the global trend of HIV/AIDS was 40.3 million, adding that “the disease is a challenge in the world”.
He said the major way of accelerating HIV messages was through community radios, noting that UNAIDS would ensure that prevention messages reach the grassroots. “To collaborate on this all stakeholders, civil society groups, the media and other organizations should come onboard to fight it out,” he stated.
The District Medical Officer (DMO) in Kenema, Dr Yankuba Bah, said it was good for journalists to know the exert message of HIV.
He disclosed that, “HIV/AIDS is a time bomb in the country exploding in various districts gradually…in 2005 the prevalence was 1.5% and in 2006 it grew up.”
Dr Bah said, “Sierra Leone is a unique case because it is taking the disease serious,” he maintained, adding that to prevent the country from reaching the stage where others have attained, a lot of sensitization needed to be done up to the grassroots level”.
The DMO stressed that the reason why the virus was growing faster was that people did not know the ways through which they got infected.
The national coordinator, Joshua Nicol of Informotrac, said the broad aim of the project was to stimulate media practitioners to report stories that promote prevention and reduce the stigma associated with the disease.
“It is hoped that the end result will be the mainstreaming of HIV/AIDS into the daily programming within the country radio sector, as an infusion of HIV/AIDS messages into regular radio programmes will make people become more aware of the virus,” Mr Nicol.
The education trainer of INFORMOTRAC-SL, Sahr Moses Mbayo, explained that the objective of the training was to increase knowledge of AIDS transmission, modes and understanding of HIV/AIDS situation in Sierra Leone, and to increase knowledge on use of correct messages on AIDS prevention in all radio programmes in the country.
In her contribution the councillor HIV/AIDS at the government hospital, Gladys Gassama, said the Voluntary Confidential Counseling and Testing (VCCT) unit was established in Kenema in 2004 to protect people living with the virus.
She explained that, “VCCT is a process by which a person willingly offers himself or herself to be tested after a confidential counseling at a VCCT centre”.
Councillor Gassama stressed that the process would enable individuals to examine their knowledge and behaviour in relation to their personal risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV— the virus that causes AIDS; help individuals to decide whether or not they should be tested; provide individuals support when they receive their HIV results and help them to know they should cope with their HIV statuses.
The programme ended with the distribution of incentive kits to station representatives.