The president of the Sierra Leone Association of Journalists, Ibrahim Ben Kargbo, has said that to pass on current and credible information on HIV/AIDS¸ journalists need to be fully equipped.
Speaking at a two-day training for media practitioners, opinion leaders and other stakeholders in society, Mr Kargbo said journalists had a pivotal role to play to reduce HIV infection rate through the requisite information dissemination. He appealed to UNICEF and the Ministry of Information, who organized the seminar, to help in this regard.
Under the theme “Unite for Children, Unite Against AIDS”, the SLAJ president told the workshop that it was important for journalists to help fight stigma as HIV was now a reality affecting children, mothers, youths and adolescents. He said the credible dissemination of information on the matter would help with the sensitization.
He said women are the most vulnerable because they lack the current information about the pandemic, noting that children who are the future leaders should grow up in a healthy environment so that they could be prosperous citizens in the country.
Minister of Information and Broadcasting, Professor Septimus Kai Kai said government was concerned about HIV/AIDS as illustrated by “the relentless efforts” by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation and National AIDS Secretariat in sourcing for funding from development partners to fight the pandemic.
Professor Kaikai said the purpose of this orientation was to draw the attention of media practitioners to the plight of children and mothers infected and affected by HIV/AIDS.
The country representative of the UN children’s fund, UNICEF said HIV/AIDS was identified in Sierra Leone as far back as 1986. Geert Cappelaere said that since then the number of HIV cases in the country had been rising.
He said children were affected by HIV for many reasons, not least because adults around them are sick, dying or have recently died.
He said the integrated approach to child survival is, and will be UNICEF’s main focus for the next three years.