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[LAGOS] Nigerian journalists in semi-urban and rural areas have been urged to prioritise news about HIV/AIDS in order to boost uptake of medical services — especially for preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV. 

To improve journalists' understanding of the issues surrounding HIV/AIDS, the Journalists Alliance for the Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV recently held a workshop in Uyo, Nigeria.

Speaking at the workshop, the organisation's national coordinator, Sola Ogundipe, said that journalists in the metropolis have a good knowledge of HIV issues, but that rural and semi-urban areas are gravely lacking in knowledge.

"Journalists should be knowledgeable of the facts in their reportage as a means of stimulating appropriate behavioural change," said Ogundipe.

He added that they should pick their words carefully, and avoid language that could make people feel that HIV is a hopeless situation.

The workshop urged journalists to increase their coverage of news about mother-to-child HIV transmission, to address the poor uptake of HIV antenatal services in Nigeria.

The authors of a major study published last week (30 March) in The Lancet wrote that antiretroviral therapies, exclusive formula feeding regimes and excellent healthcare systems have reduced the risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission from about 25 per cent to less than two per cent in some developing countries (see Diet of breast milk alone reduces HIV transmission).

But they said that these services have failed to benefit people in resource-poor settings.

The director general of the National Agency for the Control of AIDS, Babatunde Osotimehin, told SciDev.Net that women are not making use of the medical services available. "Our women don’t go for antenatal care."

He said the media has a major role to play by using language that women will understand.

"The role of the media is very key in creating awareness, especially concerning the uptake of services to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV," said Osotimehin.

"Until the media is able to communicate this to them and help mobilise women, we can't achieve much," he added.

The workshop was held 20–22 March and organised with support from UNICEF, a major supporter of services for preventing the transmission of HIV from mother-to-child in Nigeria.

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