In the world of AIDS, keeping silent is death. Silence nurtures ignorance, which helps the disease to mushroom, wiping out entire communities in the process. In a number of countries, decades of development gains are being reversed by the spread of HIV.
Amidst the welter of irrational behaviors prompted by the disease, new information and communication technologies can play a key role of bringing the disease out of the shadows, and get people talking in an open and informed way.
Access to vital, life saving information on AIDS is indeed increasingly becoming a significant human right in the wake of the devastation caused by disease. It is important, therefore, to establish innovative and creative ways to reach audiences and provide them with crucial awareness and knowledge about HIV. It is often said that education is the vaccine against HIV.
New information tools provide alternative channels of communication that can help to foster discussion about HIV and AIDS. Such channels encourage open and frank discussions about the disease, its causes and how to prevent it. Information and communication lie at the heart of HIV and AIDS programs that can address usually private and sensitive matters such as sex, sexuality, trust and death.
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And new media technologies can assume a central role in this respect because of their ability to reach large groups of people individually, quickly and effectively. The new media can also tackle the taboos surrounding the epidemic, particularly among young people who represent the future, and who are key to any successful fight against the epidemic.
But behind the new media technologies, people are required who have the integrity, passion, knowledge and a willingness to tell and share the day-to-day stories of people living with HIV.
Independent, local knowledge and information is critical to alter attitudes and policies that fester HIV and AIDS. The people who are directly affected by the disease are in a better place to tell their stories. The production of such information has a potential to influence a better response.
Citizens therefore can play an essential in bringing stories of people living with HIV and AIDS to the general public, at local and international levels.
Citizen journalism, also known as "participatory journalism," is the act of citizens "playing an active role in the process of collecting, reporting, analysing and disseminating news and information.
Citizen journalism allows correspondents located in different parts of the world, bring local and national views of those dealing and living with the epidemic on a daily basis.
New media technologies can be used to provide free news and information, containing the latest research data, analysis, information, events and briefings and reports from around the world on the epidemic.
In fact, a new wave of the Internet is promoting better and freer ways for people to tell their stories.
New Internet developments have become all about the people, about joining the conversations, about opening up to the rest of the world or just to whatever your area of expertise may be, and share it with everyone.
Citizen journalists knowledge can get information out there, share what they know in whatever the social media, i.e. blogs, wikis, social bookmarks, tagging, podcasts, web syndication, etc. etc. and engage in the conversations with everyone else. Never before has been such an opportunity to share and publish what you know without any further user intervention other than your own.
If new media's unparalleled ability to communicate with millions of people around the world is fully harnessed, more people than ever will be able to receive vital, life-saving information on AIDS.