Press coverage of HIV/AIDS in PNG: Is it sufficient to report only the news?

May 6, 2005

Background to the Paper

Promoting prevention is seen by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a key approach in attempts to limit the rapid spread of HIV throughout Papua New Guinea (PNG) and the Pacific region. Research findings, however, in 1999, 2002 and 2005 show that the press in PNG prefers to quote official figures (regardless of accuracy) rather than include urgently needed educational messages about transmission and protection. Considering that a WHO representative in PNG said in 2004 that HIV infections could reach one million in the next 10-15 years, it is appropriate to ask whether the press in PNG (and in other parts of the world) has a responsibility to educate the public as opposed to focusing only on reporting the news in times of a public health crisis? This paper aims to understand the extent and seriousness of the epidemic in PNG and to seek answers to questions such as: has reporting of the disease in the PNG press increased or decreased since the last study in 2000; have the news topics changed; and how do news stories strive to educate readers about the disease? The term “HIV/AIDS” is used to include the two different stages of infection – people living with the HIV and those with AIDS.

About the Author

Dr Trevor Cullen is a professor in journalism in the School of Arts and Humanities at Edith Cowan University, Perth, Western Australia. He has received several university and national teaching and research awards. His research areas include journalism education, health reporting and media coverage of infectious diseases, especially HIV. Dr Cullen is on the editorial board of Pacific Journalism Review.

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