July 22, 2014

Journalists putting the dual crisis of HIV and human rights firmly on the agenda

Harnessing the power and reach of the media to challenge HIV-related stigma and discrimination and champion human rights has long been a goal of the AIDS response. At this week’s 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne, Australia, UNAIDS and the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting cohosted an event to explore exactly how this can be done.

During the 21 July meeting, entitled The Dual Crisis: HIV and Human Rights, participants debated the key issues involved in producing reports, features and documentaries that deal in a balanced, informative and compassionate way with key populations most affected by HIV. Invited journalists, who had received grants from the Pulitzer Center to complete their work, discussed their experiences of creating material in collaboration with such communities, including lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Uganda, transgender women in India and women living with HIV in northern Nigeria.

The participants explored the ethical dilemmas that can emerge, such as how to share the stories of affected and stigmatized groups in their work while at the same time accepting that individuals could face further discrimination as a result of this exposure.

The Pulitzer Center also presented a new interactive data visualization showing a collection of case studies of several key populations around the world. The project aims to explore how the media might use these vivid narratives to promote greater understanding of the lives and needs of the most affected, and often most marginalized, communities.


“We are not trying to produce academic work. We are trying to provide a brief window into the lives of people with HIV, trying to promote emotional understanding of key populations.”

Zach Child, Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

“We have been great at presenting the statistics but not at conveying their emotions.”

Ameto Akpe, journalist, Business Day, Nigeria; Nieman Fellow, Harvard University

“As a journalist, I think it is important to tell both sides of the story.”

Daniella Zalcman, photojournalist, featured in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, CNN