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Developed by Julie Clayton, HIV/AIDS co-ordinator for the Science and Development Network, with cont

MULTIMEDIA TRAINING KIT


Exercises: HIV/AIDS Journalism and
Communication Skills


Developed
by Julie Clayton, HIV/AIDS co-ordinator for the Science and Development
Network, with contributions from TV Padma of Panos-India






Exercise 1: Your own stories


Aim: To
enable participants to become familiar with each other’s work and to consider
different story sources.


Part 1: Comparing sources


Distribute
the samples of your own written work you brought to the other participants.
Describe briefly to the group, in approximately 5 minutes, what the source was
for your story or report, how you investigated and developed the story, and how
you convinced your editor to take the story.


Part 2: Group discussion


Discuss the following questions:



1. What alternative sources might there be for variations on some of
the stories you have heard about? (Consider: personal contacts, press releases,
e-mail alerts, conferences and/or other events, including press conferences.


2. What other outlets might be suitable for enhancing the communication
of stories or reports such as these? (Consider: print, radio, TV, web cast)


3. What obstacles are there to finding new story sources?


4. How can these obstacles be overcome?


5. Is there any additional information that you now feel could have
been added?



Exercise 2: Selling the story to the editor


Part 1: Small group work


In your
groups, imagine that you have to choose from a selection of press releases or
news stories about HIV/AIDS in order to propose a story for your local paper. Discuss
what angle you would take, and prepare arguments for why your “editor” should
agree to run the story.


You may
wish to refer to the tips in the unit handout on
“What
makes news ‘news’?” by David Dickson, director of SciDevNet.


Part 2: Role-play


Each group must now take it in turns to be “the
journalist” trying to sell their choice of story to “the editor” - represented
by the other participants. Each group must justify their selection, saying why
it is important for their publication/intended audience, and talk about its newsworthiness,
such as novelty or being a new twist on an ongoing issue, its likely impact on
the target audience, and its economic or political implications.



The “editors” must, in turn, argue against
taking the story, giving reasons, such as lack of importance, relevance or
broad appeal to the target audience, its appearance as yet another “doom and
gloom” story, and competition against other stories on the same day.







Exercise 3: Developing different story angles


Part 1: Choosing the angle


In your groups, look at the information
relating to an HIV/AIDS issue (distributed by the trainer) and discuss how you
would develop a news story or feature around it, depending on your publication.



Choose ONE of the following as your medium:



o A local broadsheet newspaper read in a city area by highly educated
professionals


o An urban “tabloid” newspaper


o A community radio station that broadcasts to a rural community whose
members have little or no access to formal education, and may be illiterate


o A newsletter for an NGO with a focus on HIV/AIDS orphans, or human
rights


Part 2: Drafting the story


Still within your group, work together to
draft the outline of a news story, taking an angle that is suited to your “publication”
and target audience, stating which issues you would highlight, who you would
interview, and what information you would include.


Part 3: Group feedback and discussion


Nominate a representative to present
your group's story angle/s to the rest of the workshop, and then discuss
whether all possible angles have been considered.



Exercise 4: Writing a news
story or press release


Part 1: Read and discuss


[The trainer will designate groups as
“journalists working for a local newspaper” or “information officers of a local
community NGO”]



Read the information about a forthcoming
clinical trial of an HIV vaccine distributed by the trainer.



The trial aims to test whether or not the
vaccine will protect healthy individuals against HIV infection. The goal is to
produce a vaccine that can protect a healthy person against becoming infected
with HIV through having unprotected sex with an HIV-infected partner.



The trial will be relying upon the
recruitment of volunteers in your local community - healthy individuals who are
not infected with HIV.



Volunteers will be counselled against having
unprotected sex, but the trial is designed on the assumption that a small
proportion of volunteers are likely to have unprotected sex on at least some
occasions. Only then will the protective effect of the vaccine become apparent,
when comparing a large number of volunteers who have received the vaccine with
a “control” group that have received neither.


“JOURNALISTS”

Your editor wants you to write a news story
about the forthcoming vaccine trials.



Using the questions below as a guide, discuss
with your group members how you would like to develop a news story with the
event of the conference from which the abstract is chosen as the topical “peg”.
You must include a plan for who you would interview, and what angle you would
wish to take.



Questions to consider when
writing a news story about a vaccine or microbicide clinical trial:



o What is known about the safety of the vaccine?


o What is the vaccine made of?


o What is the purpose of the trial?


o Is the vaccine likely to carry the HIV virus itself, with a risk
that a volunteer may become infected?


o Is the vaccine being tested in other countries?


o Why was your country chosen for this trial?


o Who will be needed as volunteers – gender, age, ethnic background?


o How will volunteers be guided to provide written consent?


o How will the volunteers be monitored and cared-for during the trial?


o Will volunteers have access to free counselling and condoms in order
to practice safer sex?


o Will volunteers be offered treatment with antiretroviral drugs if
they become infected during the course of the trial through having unprotected
sex with an HIV-infected partner?


o If the vaccine is shown to be successful at protecting against HIV
infection, how will the community benefit – who will have ownership of the vaccine,
and will it be made widely available at low cost?




“INFORMATION OFFICERS”

Read the information that you have been
given regarding clinical trials for an HIV vaccine. Remember, the media can be a powerful ally in helping to promote your
cause, and you are an important “gatekeeper of information” to the media.



Your organization has been approached by
scientists wishing to test the vaccine, asking for your help in recruiting
volunteers. You are aware, however, of a number of rumours and misconceptions that
are circulating in the community, which may hinder your efforts at helping with
recruitment. If you can alert the media to the forthcoming trial, then they may
help to dispel some of the rumours and misconceptions.



Rumours



Circulating rumours and misconceptions may
include: that the HIV vaccine contains live virus, and could cause infection in
volunteers, and that the HIV vaccine will protect against infection, so it will
no longer be necessary to practice safer sex using condoms.



Recruitment



You are also aware of potential problems in
recruiting equal numbers of men and women for the trial: some men in the
community are so mistrustful of doctors and scientists that they are likely to
refuse to allow their wives to volunteer for a trial. They believe that trial
participation means their wives will be encouraged to be unfaithful. This
problem may be compounded by the refusal of many men in your society to wear
condoms, particularly when having sex with their wives. Some may refuse to
co-operate with the safer sex counselling given to trial participants.



Questions to consider when deciding what
angle/s to use to engage the local media on these issues:



o What is known about the safety of the vaccine?


o What is the vaccine made of?


o What is the purpose of the trial?


o Is the vaccine likely to carry the HIV virus itself, with a risk
that a volunteer may become infected?


o Is the vaccine being tested in other countries?


o Why was your country chosen for this trial?


o Who will be needed as volunteers – gender, age, ethnic background?


o How will volunteers be guided to provide written consent?


o How will the volunteers be monitored and cared-for during the trial?


o Will volunteers have access to free counselling and condoms in order
to practice safer sex?


o Will volunteers be offered treatment with antiretroviral drugs if
they become infected during the course of the trial through having unprotected
sex with an HIV-infected partner?


o If the vaccine is shown to be successful at protecting against HIV
infection, how will the community benefit – who will have ownership of the
vaccine, and will it be made widely available at low cost?



Part 2: Writing the news story or press release


JOURNALISTS

Draft the outline of a news story to
indicate your chosen angle (there may be more than one story outline for
different possible angles) and the kind of information you wish to get across.
You may volunteer individually to draft different story angles, or you may
prefer to work jointly with your team members. This only has to be in the form
of bullet points rather than a full description.


INFORMATION OFFICERS

Draft the outline of a press release (as
bullet points) for the local media.



You may find it useful to take a look at
the tips on "How to write a press release", by Natasha Martineau for
SciDevNet, included in the handout for this unit.


Part 3: Exchange and discuss


Come together with the other groups and
take it in turns to present and discuss your outlines.






Exercise 5: Investigating controversial claims


Part 1: Internet
exercise


You have received information from a
company claiming to have a food supplement that “cures” or treats HIV infection
or AIDS (distributed by the trainer).



Find further information via the Internet
on these claims and complete the table:





















Individual/


company/


product



Do they claim “cure”, “prevention”, “treatment” or “reversal” of
HIV/AIDS?



Is there scientific evidence for the claims published in
peer-reviewed journals?



Are ingredients identified, or are some referred to as “secret
ingredients?”



Is treatment only available privately, or from only one source?


































In order to judge more effectively the
validity of such claims, you can do the following:



o Look for further information around the claim or company using a
general search engine such as Google. This will produce articles written
previously about the company and its claims, and may locate the company’s own
website, with press releases and information about key staff members –
participants can check their credentials and affiliations.


o Use a specialised publication database such as PubMed (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/PubMed/)
to look up the publications of the researchers named in the press release – to
see what they've done before and check their scientific credentials.


o Search using the term “HIV/AIDS Fraud”. This will link to a number
of websites containing advice about how to judge the validity of a claim of
HIV/AIDS “treatment” or “cure”.


o In particular, go to the New Mexico AIDS Info Net fact sheet 206
titled “How to spot HIV/AIDS Fraud”
(this is also reproduced in the resources of this unit. http://www.aidsinfonet.org/articles.php?articleID=206


o See also some interesting examples of “AIDS related Quackery and
Fraud” cited at Quackwatch http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/aids.html
http://www.quackwatch.org/01QuackeryRelatedTopics/aids.html


o See also Project Inform’s How
to identify HIV/AIDS fraud
http://www.projinf.org/fs/dp-fraud.html


o Search for independent experts who can provide outside comment on
the claims in the press release. Ideally these would be local – for convenience
of time zone and expense of telephone calls – perhaps a local research
institute, hospital or NGO. Here there may be scientists with the appropriate
expertise for judging the claim. They can then be checked for credibility and
appropriateness via their publications that may be listed on PubMed.
(Alternatively these researchers could be contacted and asked for
recommendations on whom else to approach).


o Alternatively, you may have to look for experts in another country
(resources permitting). These could be found via their publications on a
similar topic, on PubMed http://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/entrez/query.fcgi?CMD=search&DB=PubMed
or through a clinical trials database (for example at the HIV Prevention Trials
Network http://www.hptn.org, the HIV Vaccine
Trials Network http://www.hvtn.org, or AIDS
Info http://www.aidsinfo.nih.gov).
You could also find experts by sending email to a research organization or
charity that is likely to be familiar with the press release information, to
make recommendations.


o Another route would be to visit websites of conferences covering the
topic concerned, and see who has chaired or spoken at symposia on the topic.
Their abstracts may be available online – enabling reporters to check how
closely their research matches the topic described in the press release – for
example at the International AIDS Congress http://www.AIDS2002.com/home.asp




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