THE MEDIA tend to sensationalize AIDS, often focusing on the more scandalous aspects of the private lives of those with HIV/AIDS victims, without shedding light on the complexity of the contagion. Often, those with the disease are portrayed as the culprits behind the spread of the disease, thus contributing to the social ostracism that people with AIDS suffer. Sometimes, reporters even get it wrong, propagating wrong notions about the disease and contributing to the public's misinformation about HIV/AIDS.
Even when journalists get it right and take a more holistic view, they have tended to look at the epidemic in a one-dimensional way: as a public health problem, or as an issue related to the sex industry, drug use or military prostitution. AIDS is all of these, but also more than all of these. To succeed in the battle against AIDS, the epidemic must be viewed in a multidimensional way, as a phenomenon rooted in society and tightly linked to social ills.
This is not easy to do, given the tight deadlines that journalists generally have to work with and the inadequate information that is available to them. This book aims to help Southeast Asian journalists grapple with the complex issues related to HIV/AIDS.
It is intended to be a map, a guide, a tool for reporters who write on this and related health and social issues. It is helpful to others as well, including officials, policymakers, activists and citizens who wish to know more about an epidemic that is claiming lives, sucking up resources, and undermining the efforts of many Southeast Asian societies to provide a better life for their peoples.