Media Advocacy Initiative

Media Advocacy remained one of important strategies of CFAR in building a supportive environment for HIV Prevention Program. CFAR worked in six States - Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, Manipur and Nagaland -  in partnership with Avahan during a period from August 2005 to late 2011.

Main focus of MA initiative remained on building a positive media response and to ensure balanced and informed coverage on HIV and people living with HIV. At that time the misconceptions about HIV were more prevalent and hence communication and media were like cornerstones for effective roll out of the program. CFAR recognized the need to work at both ends; stakeholders such as program implementers, policy makers, community on the one hand and the media on the other, which was crucial at the outset of the program.

First it was essential to track what was being placed on the media domain and identify gaps in the content, its projection and messages. For this purpose, a key focus in the beginning, was to track the media discourse related to HIV and the key population in the six states.

For this purpose media tracking was used as a tool to understand and influence media discourse.  It was systematically done for the national level media as well as for the state and district level media. Thus both English and Language media was covered; roughly 6-7 state newspapers and 5 district editions in 2-3 districts in each state were tracked by a team specially dedicated for this work.

The tracking showed broader trends, major gap that fed into advocacy interventions that were being planned, like training and exposure to journalists, information support, training of community leaders as spokespersons on the issue, and interactions between the two to help shape the media discourse in the affirmative. It also helped to build capacities of the partners and community representatives to interact with the media. Given the stigma and fear surrounding HIV in early years, it was challenging to give a ‘human face’ to a supposedly ‘dreadful disease’. In this initial phase community members took the risk of revealing their identity to become spokespersons, which helped change perception of journalists and messaging in their stories.

The following figure shows an integrated design of project, that started with media tracking and how its findings fed into media sensitization programs, creating media friendly material and building capacities of partners and community to interface with media.

Quantum of News        Community Media Monitoring