Health Journalism

Media needs to stop sitting on the sidelines

Written by Anso Thom

Government committed itself to having 53 000 people on antiretrovirals (ARVs) by the end of 2004. What are the challenges government faces in rolling out? What is the hold up? Is government dragging its feet, is there a lack of political will or are there real problems with implementation? And what role do the media have to play in all of this? The HIV/AIDS and the Media Project and the Journalism Department at the University of Stellenbosch hosted a panel discussion addressing these very questions. Anso Thom was one of the panellists.

global_treatment_150x150I am not a person for platforms. I prefer to be the one behind the notebook and pen trying to make sense of the world and all its madness. But I feel passionate enough about the topic to put myself through this stressful experience!

The brief of this panel was to chat about the ARV roll-out, the much disputed figures of 53 000 referring to the number of people Government said would be on ARVs by the end of the month, the challenges facing Government in rolling out their plan, the perceived lack of political will versus the real problems they may be facing with implementation, the consequences of the delay and the role the media have to play in all of this.
Most of the above I left to my fellow panelists to deal with and I will try to share my thoughts on my experiences in covering this epidemic over the past few years.
53 000. A figure that has become a symbol for whether we are succeeding in dealing with this epidemic or not. It is a significant figure because if we achieve in placing 53 000 people on ARVs, it would be a world first.
It could have been another record in terms of the Aids epidemic that we can add to the list of having the highest number of People living with HIV/Aids and the largest prevention of mother to child transmission programme in the world.

I am not a member of the roll-out choir in that I do not believe it is the ultimate solution. Obviously I do believe in the merits of providing ARVs to those people who need it, in areas where they are ready to provide it, to a community that is ready to accept it and our track record at Health-e bares testimony to this.

I believe ARVs should be the cherry on top of a programme that deals with among others prevention, keeping people who are HIV positive healthy until they have no other option, but to use the drugs and to make sure they have followed a process which empowers them to not default on their medication.

Read more here: Panel discussion.pdf

About the author

Anso Thom