HIV/AIDS: VOA Cares
The HIV/AIDS crisis is the greatest human challenge of our times, and meeting that challenge has required the global mobilization of resources, creativity and talent on an unprecedented scale, and more needs to be done. Effective communications strategies are central to addressing the pandemic that touches upon virtually every aspect of our lives -- personal identities, self-esteem, sexuality, religious beliefs, morality, good governance, social justice, poverty eradication, access
to good health care, stigma, discrimination, education, care of orphans and more. Embracing the crisis and finding the solutions require change, often difficult change that is both intimate and public in dimension. Communications strategies that promote authentic conversations, debate and discourse play an important role in empowering individuals to change their behavior and communities to usher in an era of cultural, economic and political innovations needed to stop the pandemic and
reduce its negative social impact.
In a bid to help meet the communications challenge, Gregory Pirio launched the VOA Cares campaign to expand the Voice of America’s capacity to reach its audiences with authentic programming on HIV/AIDS issues. He worked to mobilize resources from within the U.S. Government, the private sector and the international community in support of enhanced radio and TV programming around HIV/AIDS issues to the tens of millions of listeners and viewers, often in high-burdened countries. This
high-quality programming in multiple languages included serialized radio drama, features, documentaries, call-in shows, round-tables and more – some of which have been recognized for their excellence in content and style. The programs targeted different groups from decision-makers and health care workers to the general public, and sought to bring the voices of those living with HIV/AIDS and those living with the social impact to a wider public and a wider world.
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Among the objectives, the programs sought to:
- Undermine the stigmatization of people living with HIV/AIDS,
- Promote HIV prevention,
- Discuss treatment and care, including obstacles and solutions
- Report on the social costs of inactions,
- Examine the challenges presented by the growing number of so-called AIDS orphans, including presenting the many examples of people providing heroic solutions to a difficult problem.
The initiative was truly global in its breath, but paid most attention to the countries most affected by the pandemic in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean. The initiative also broadcast programs on prevention themes to those countries where HIV prevalence is on the rise.
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Health Journalism CD-ROM
HIV/AIDS initiative also reached out to journalists in Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America with training designed to enhance journalistic skills in covering HIV/AIDS topics. The Health Journalism CD-ROM was the centerpiece of the strategy to empower journalists.
This CD-ROM prototype received two CINDY awards- coveted Cinema in Industry distinctions in international and national competitions. The CINDY award is presented by the International Association of Audio Visual Communicators, a nonprofit organization representing theatrical, broadcast, non-broadcast and interactive media professionals throughout the world.
Gregory Pirio was the lead developer of the Health Journalism CD-ROM. Developed in close collaboration in the Pan American Health Organization, USAID, UNAIDS, Merck and the Merck Foundation. Health Journalism is an self-paced, interactive, multi-media learning experience designed to improve the skills and knowledge base of journalists in the Caribbean and Latin America interested in health issues. The program replicates a newsroom environment. Reporters enter the
program and are given an assignment by an editor. The reporter then has the opportunity to research the topic in a briefing room which serves as a library of information on the topic and on the skills prerequisite for filing a successful story. The briefing room also contains an archive of clippings of effective real-life health stories. Finally, the user travels to an on-site setting that contains multi-media interviews and other sources needed to write and file a story or series of
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