Bad reporting: Revealing the real scourge
14 July 2011
An error ridden article by the South African Press Association (SAPA) has been used by various newspapers to report on a particular HIV-related landmark development.
Ground-breaking studies conducted in Africa have revealed that ARV medication can protect HIV-negative people from HIV infection. ART administered before potential exposure to HIV is known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
Two landmark PrEP studies have taken the media by storm this week, announcing that taking a single ARV pill a day can stave off HIV infection.
But coverage on this crucial development in HIV prevention has been blighted by errors in HIV-related terminology which seem to have all but disappeared from HIV news reporting.
An error stricken syndicated article on the PrEP studies which originated with SAPA has been splashed across various newspapers this morning. The article has been republished in The Times and was also featured on the online versions of The New Age, The Times, City Press and News 24.
Original articles appearing in the Sowetan and on the MSN website also displayed the same unfortunate errors.
The articles feature shocking missteps in terms of HIV terminology such as “AIDS virus” and “AIDS drugs.”
The only newspaper to have averted the article disaster was The Star which ran a well written article which made use of the correct HIV-relatedterminology.
As has been stressed before, language used in reporting HIV has the power to influence perceptions of the condition and the people who are affected by it.
Added to this is the fact that most South Africans are largely uninformed about HIV and AIDS and are consequently ill-equipped to tell the difference between the correct and incorrect facts that they consume via the media.
The syndicated SAPA article also indicates that editors need to take a critical eye to such articles instead of assuming that they are correct and accurate.
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