J-school event focuses on HIV/AIDS education


The A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications sponsored “Social Dimensions of AIDS: Partnering With the Media” Wednesday in an effort to communicate the importance of HIV/AIDS media coverage, education and awareness.
    The program, hosted in the Flint Hills Room of the K-State Student Union, featured four events with several speakers. Each event emphasized the significance of understanding and effectively reporting about HIV/AIDS.
    Speakers from KU Internal Medicine Midtown presented the program’s first event, “HIV: The Third Decade”. This focused on both global and local HIV/AIDS statistics. Then, people living with HIV/AIDS delivered their own personal stories. For the third event, speakers from The Manhattan Mercury and Kansas Public Radio discussed the importance of efficient reporting about the disease, and ways journalists can improve. A discussion panel on the issue ended the program.
    “The purpose of today’s program was education, which is vital,” said Bryan Thompson, a Kansas Public Radio reporter. “It was to help journalists and students get some ideas on how to broach this topic in their careers.”
    Thompson said without journalists reporting on HIV/AIDS, the awareness and national education of the disease would remain low, which has dangerous consequences.
     “It’s easy for everyone to say that media should cover AIDS, but when you’re in the position, the topic is difficult to approach,” he said. “We wanted to help students to approach it as something ordinary people can relate to and care about, because this is the way to publicize the issue and encourage people to get tested. It’s a hard job.”
    Thompson said he thinks the program emphasized the message that there is a negative stigma associated with the disease, which the media should attempt to negate.
    “All the problems of HIV/AIDS education and communication boils down to the stigma,” he said. “So the people who have it keep quiet. It’s a vicious cycle. The way to fight this disease is to go public. The less you talk about it, the less people know.”
    Some audience members said they thought the program was successful with its intent to annunciate the importance of HIV/AIDS education.
    “It was interesting, as both a student and audience member, to get information,” said Moira Niebauer, senior in journalism. “There were a lot of important messages communicated. The stigma that goes with AIDS needs to be addressed as an issue. I learned the number of people with AIDS is increasing, and the number of stories in the media is decreasing.”
    Nancy Muturi, assistant professor of journalism, started planning this event with her Public Relations Campaign class last January, when she received a grant. She has been fundraising since, and said the program will continue until next December.
    Muturi said she intended her program to prepare K-State for World AIDS Week, which is from Nov. 26 to Dec. 7. She said she hoped students would become more knowledgeable and conscious about HIV/AIDS as a result of the program.
    “I wanted to give a contribution to a global event,” Muturi said. “Most people think of AIDS as a problem in other countries, but it’s a big problem in the U.S. and even Manhattan. People need to be educated about AIDS, and I hope this program will encourage as many people as possible to get tested.”
    Muturi said she is passionate about the issue because she grew up in rural Africa, where the deadly disease is rampant.
    “I’ve seen what AIDS can do. I’ve seen the deadly impact of it,” she said. “It spreads like wildfire if you don’t do anything about it. My experiences got me to think about doing something about it. People aren’t getting educated or tested, and it’s spreading. I want to help that.”