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PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (May 31, 2000 – The National)---The media have been urged to lead public debate on the issue of HIV/AIDS and report on how to cope with the disease.

Queensland University journalism lecturer Trevor Cullen made this remark yesterday when presenting his talk on the topics, "The Role of the Media and HIV/AIDS" and "Reporting of HIV/AIDS in Papua New Guinea," at the second day of the three-day Media and HIV/AIDS workshop at the Granville Motel in the national capital yesterday.

According to his research on the PNG media coverage of the issue, Mr. Cullen said the media is willing to report on HIV/AIDS but does not lead public debate on the issue.

He said that until recently, the majority of news items focused on the facts and figures of the disease but less on how to cope with the disease to help people living with HIV/AIDS.

Mr. Cullen said facts and figures do not have much impact unless the media can show that it is not an isolated problem.

"We may be waiting until it's too late. The media has a part to play and can influence the perception of a problem," he said.

Noting that many articles about HIV/AIDS are written during World AIDS Day, Mr. Cullen emphasized that journalists should constantly remember that the issue needs constant covering because it is a "hidden" disease that is all too easily out of sight and out of mind.

He said the media may make good coverage on facts and figures but what is missing is "mobilization of information" to spell out clearly the danger, the risks and preventative means, and how to cope with the disease.

Mr. Cullen suggested that media organizations, especially the print media, play their part by introducing or re-introducing a health section in their publication or program.

He said journalists should be able to not only report on HIV/AIDS stories but also write in an educational manner and lead a debate on the issue.

Mr. Cullen stressed the importance of each media organization having a journalist specializing in health issues, whose writing focuses on health concerns, especially AIDS/HIV.

Mr. Cullen is currently working on a handbook to help journalists to better write and cover HIV/AIDS issues, especially in the South Pacific.



By Timothy Kwara

PORT MORESBY, Papua New Guinea (May 31, 2000 – The National)---Maire Du Pont, a Tahitian journalist currently in Port Moresby to participate in an AIDS workshop, said she hates the label "AIDS victim."

Ms. Du Pont said at a luncheon held in her honor by the National Council of Women yesterday that those who are suffering from AIDS are actually "victims of society."

Ms Du Pont is HIV positive. She carries in her body the virus that leads to AIDS.

AIDS is not a killer disease. It is a condition whereby the sufferer's immune system is attacked by the HIV.

"The weak immune system makes people vulnerable to diseases, which in turn kills them," explained Ms. Du Pont.

She said there is a need for an aggressive educational campaign to educate ignorant people about the disease.

"The only way for people to campaign against the disease is to talk about it openly. My courage will give others the courage to speak out," Ms. Du Pont said.

As such, she said, not talking openly about human sexuality -- as is the case in PNG and most other Pacific island countries -- is wrong. She also noted that HIV infection or AIDS should not be seen as divine punishment.

Ms. Du Pont said she is delighted to be invited to participate in the National AIDS Council workshop currently under way at the Granville Motel.

"It's a good experience to attend the workshop in PNG. I am learning a lot by attending the workshop."

Ms. Du Pont said the best reward for her is to be allowed to continue her campaign against the disease.

Ms. Du Pont departs for home on Thursday to continue her work as a journalist with a radio station in Tahiti.

For additional reports from The National, go to PACIFIC ISLANDS REPORT News/Information Links: Newspapers/The National (Papua New Guinea).

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