U.N. Secretary-General Annan Launches Global Media AIDS Initiative To Educate Public About HIV/AIDS
Leading executives from 22 media companies on Thursday at a meeting with U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan in New York City pledged to use their companies' influence to educate the worldwide public about HIV/AIDS, the Financial Times reports (Thal Larsen, Financial Times, 1/16). After a three-hour meeting, the executives signed a declaration promising "to expand public knowledge and understanding about HIV/AIDS" through their companies' practices (Arieff, Reuters, 1/15). The idea of the Global Media AIDS Initiative, an alliance between the United Nations and the media, was generated through a partnership between UNAIDS and the Kaiser Family Foundation, with financial support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The meeting was organized to explore how the media can draw attention to the epidemic and create long-lasting public education campaigns. UNAIDS estimates that two-thirds of the 45 million new HIV infections projected to occur worldwide over the next 10 years could be averted through greater access to effective prevention and public education efforts (U.N./UNAIDS/Kaiser Family Foundation/Gates Foundation release, 1/15). Recent studies show that more than half of young adults ages 15 to 24 in 40 countries do not know how HIV is transmitted. A study conducted in 21 African countries found that 60% of girls have at least one major misconception about HIV/AIDS or have not heard of the disease (Lauria, Boston Globe, 1/16).
Most of the companies pledged to use public service announcements, expanded news coverage and documentaries to educate the public about the AIDS epidemic. Many participants agreed to weave AIDS-related stories into entertainment programs, recruit other media outlets to join the campaign and provide their campaign materials free-of-charge to other broadcast outlets (McNamara, AP/Yahoo! News, 1/15). Specific company commitments include:
Gazprom-Media: Gazprom CEO Alexander Dybal said that the Russian company's television and radio stations will use PSAs and popular programs to disseminate education messages and will train staff to better cover HIV/AIDS (Boston Globe, 1/16).
BBC: BBC's World Service Trust plans to work with with local media and government launch an HIV/AIDS education campaign in eight African countries (AP/Yahoo! News, 1/15).
Black Entertainment Television: Robert Johnson, founder and CEO of BET, is working with African-American celebrities and athletes to produce AIDS programs that the company will share with media outlets in sub-Saharan Africa at no cost (Boston Globe, 1/16).
Other participating companies include Broadcasting Organizations of Nigeria, China Central TV, Brazil's Globo International, NHK Japan Broadcasting Corp., Time Warner, France's TV5, Lebanese Broadcasting Corp. International, South African Broadcasting Corp. and Spain's Radio Television Espanola (Reuters, 1/15).
Viacom, which owns CBS, UPN, MTV, BET and several other cable channels, will commit $200 million in air time to its HIV/AIDS education campaign in 2004, AP/Yahoo! News reports (AP/Yahoo! News, 1/15). The $200 million is in addition to the $380 million that the company has already spent on AIDS-related programming, according to the Globe (Boston Globe, 1/16). The Kaiser Family Foundation and Viacom on Feb. 1 during the pre-game show of the Super Bowl plan to air an HIV/AIDS public service announcement that will kick off the second year of the "KNOW HIV/AIDS" awareness campaign, which Viacom and the Kaiser Family Foundation launched in January 2003 (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/12). In addition, MTV plans to convene a "creative summit" to discuss methods of informing young people about HIV/AIDS, MTV International President Bill Roedy said (Financial Times, 1/16).
Annan said, "As leaders of the media, you have the power and the reach to disseminate the information people need to protect themselves from HIV/AIDS. Silence is death. As broadcasters, you can bring the disease out of the shadows and get people talking about it in an open, informed way" (Boston Globe, 1/16). "The commitments made by the media organizations [at the forum] are one of the most important collective contributions to the fight against AIDS to date," UNAIDS Executive Director Peter Piot said, adding, "By harnessing the media's unparalleled ability to communicate with billions of people around the world, we can now provide more people than ever with vital life-saving information on AIDS." Kaiser Family Foundation President and CEO Drew Altman said, "For more than a decade, the Kaiser Family Foundation has worked with media companies in the U.S. and globally to include HIV/AIDS public education messages into their programming that will resonate especially with young people and those who are most at risk," adding, "The new Global AIDS Media Initiative signals a new and expanded commitment by media leaders that will reach millions more people with public health information" (U.N./UNAIDS/Kaiser Family Foundation/Gates Foundation release, 1/15). Bill Gates, who delivered the keynote address at the meeting, told the industry executives, "You are joining into something where there is very much positive momentum, but we're not even doing half of what should be done. The challenge for all of you is to think about how to raise visibility" (Reuters, 1/15).
Webcasts of the Global Media AIDS Initiative meeting, Gates' keynote address and press conference announcing the intiative are available online from kaisernetwork.org.