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The paper examines the role of the broadcast media particularly the television medium in educating the public on Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) as well as caring for the HIV/AIDS infected persons in Edo State, Nigeria. It seeks to find out whether the television medium has been able to rally round government and other stakeholders. support for the containment of HIV/AIDS in Benin City, Ekpoma and Auchi, the three main urban communities of Edo State. Random selection method was adopted and questionnaires were distributed to the participants and these questionnaires were analysed using simple frequency tables and percentages. The result showed that television, as a medium of mass communication has been able to raise awareness on HIV/AIDS through its various programmes, which are geared towards enlightening people about HIV/AIDS or helping the infected persons to live positively. It was also found that a partial disconnect exist between the people.s sense of awareness and sexual behaviours as could be gleaned from their attitude in terms of risky sexual behaviours indicated by the increase in HIV/AIDS infection in Edo state. Thus, this paper recommends that television programmers should explore more avenues of rallying stakeholders in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
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Statistics reveal that of the estimated 40 million people infected with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2005 (UNAIDS reports, 2006); at least 70% were residing in Sub Sahara Africa (Development Management Associates, 2005). The pandemic had left 1.7 million children as orphans. Already 18.8 million people around the world have died of HIV/AIDS and 3.8 million of them are children while 4.1 million of these cases were reported in 2005 alone (UNAIDS reports, 2006). Since 1981 when HIV/AIDS was first diagnosed in United States of America (USA), the virus has spread throughout the world affecting both the rich and the poor, urban and rural people alike. Technically speaking, the HIV which disables the human immune system is either of two strains of a retrovirus, HIV-1 or HIV-2 that destroys the immune system.s helper T cells, the loss of which causes AIDS (Encarta Encyclopaedia, 2008). The African continent has not been spared from this health scourge (Adesina, Afolabi, Awosola, & Adesina, 2007). The sub-Saharan Africa situation is direr than other regions in terms of the availability of treatment options of HIV/AIDS, as over 4.6 million people in sub-Saharan Africa are in need of antiretroviral (ARV) treatment.
But only some 1.3 million now receive ARVs (Chinsembu, 2009). Apart from being a health challenge, HIV/AIDS is a human development issue. It affects virtually all strata of any society, be it the military, education, commerce or other sectors. In Nigeria for instance, if you are not infected, you would certainly be affected . that is, it could be you, your family member or relations, your friend or even your neighbour that is infected or affected. It therefore means that everyone must not let off the guard . everyone must be cautious. According to the Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) in Nigeria, the 2005 HIV/AIDS/syphilis sentinel survey showed that 4.4% of the total adult population aged 15-49 years who are still sexually active were living with HIV/AIDS. The sentinel survey was compiled from data collected at antenatal clinics across the country. The median HIV/ AIDS prevalence among antenatal clinics had levelled off at around 4% (FMOH report, 2006). However, such a report is a guideline and cannot be considered conclusive. Some Nigerian women do not deliver in clinics and not all of them do allow themselves to be tested for HIV/AIDS (Afolabi & Adesina, 2005). Nevertheless, Nigeria has the third largest global number of people living with HIV/AIDS with an estimated number of between 1.7 million . 4.2 million (UNAIDS Report on the Global HIV/AIDS Epidemic, 2002).
Countries of the world have been responding to the challenges of HIV/AIDS through various awareness campaigns to sensitise their nationals on meaning, mode of spread as well as prevention of the infection. The media have played a pivotal role in the fight against HIV/AIDS. It is often said that education is the vaccine against HIV/AIDS (Global Media AIDS Initiative, 2004). Therefore many media organisations are rising to the challenge by promoting awareness of HIV/AIDS and educating the general public on its control. In United States of America, 72% of Americans identify television, radio and newspapers as their primary sources of information about HIV/AIDS compared to doctors, friends and family. In India more than 70% of respondents said they had received their information about HIV/AIDS from television (Global Media AIDS Initiative, 2004). Similarly, Moto (2004) reports that the advent of the fatal health condition in Malawi was made .public to the nation. through a newspaper article and radio broadcasts on then only broadcasting outlet, the Malawi Broadcasting Corporation (MBC). He noted that the different media agencies made it imperative for the society to engage in what is known as .straight talk. about sex organs and/or sexual behaviour.
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The above studies corroborated Lindsey (1994) who argued that the media play a central role in mediating information and forming public opinion. Thus, the media cast an eye on events that feed us directly of experiences and render remote happenings observable and meaningful. It is in this sense that the media come across as persuasive instruments in man.s struggle for self liberation and development. Similarly, Steinberg (1972) observed in a previous report that the mass media select and bring to waiting multitudes a constant flow of detail related to those fruitful dialogues of differences and concordances upon which free societies thrive. The strength of the media in influencing peoples. perception as well as making society to change their behaviour may be an essential tool for fighting medical and social problems such as HIV/AIDS. In other words, the media could be used to successfully advocate for behavioural and attitudinal change. It could also be a medium of addressing people living with HIV/AIDS in order to prevent stigmatization as well as discrimination against the infected and affected persons.