Journalists in Kenya are trained to report accurately and responsibly on health issues, including HIV/AIDS.
Kenya is in the top ten of countries with the highest HIV infection and maternal mortality rates and its infant mortality rate is ten times that of the United States. Women’s HIV infection rate in Kenya is almost twice that of men. Sylvia Chebet, a senior reporter at Citizen TV in Kenya who was trained by Internews, notes that there are many women’s reproductive health issues in Kenya that need to be addressed.
Internews’ Voices in Health program was launched in Kenya in 2003. Since then hundreds of journalists have been trained to write responsibly about HIV/AIDS and women’s health issues, with a particular focus on making the science accessible while dispelling myths and preventing stigma. When she was only 24, Chebet so impressed her editor with her reporting that she landed her own television health spot, a program called Heartbeat, where she airs stories on vital health issues. Chebet uses stories about individuals to get her points across. “We wanted to give health issues a human face,” she says. “There is so much more to health reporting than what we see in the local media.”
In a survey conducted by Steadman Research Services in Nairobi, the radio content analysis demonstrated the success of the Local Voices program. Coverage of HIV/AIDS in Kenya has increased and become more varied and sophisticated, as well as increasing in quality. For example, after two years of conducting the Local Voices program in Kenya, Citizen Radio had increased HIV slots from 3 to 16 with content diversified to include PLWHAs, condoms, and rape – a topic that is rarely talked about.