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UN Calls upon Chinese Media to Reduce HIV Stigma
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The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has called on China's commercial media and other private businesses to make greater efforts in combating HIV-related stigma and discrimination in China.

"In order to break the oppressive cycle of stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS, we would like to present a more positive image using China's commercial media and advertising," said Subinay Nandy, director of UNDP China.

"Commercial media is a major source of information for the general public. It has strong and enduring influences on people's behavior and attitudes. We should use the media as our main weapon in our fight against AIDS," said Ru Xiaomei, an official with the National Population and Family Planning Commission (NPFPC).

Stigma and discrimination have been significant obstacles to universal access to HIV prevention programs, treatment, care and support.

A survey conducted earlier this year in 12 Beijing universities, many considered as the most enlightened in the country, showed that nearly a quarter of students would object to having HIV positive classmates. Moreover, four percent said HIV carriers should barred from jobs.

The survey clearly displays that China's university students still consider it a "challenge" to shake hands with or embrace an HIV carrier. Once they finally do it, they regard it as a "breakthrough".

"Everyone is responsible for fighting AIDS. A company should not avoid its social responsibilities," said Tang Lixin, president of EPIN Media, which plays free AIDS awareness ads on over 300 trains in China.

"We get from society, so we should give. We are good at public relations, so we start from here," said managing director Clair Rong of Clair PR, which has joined campaigns to fight AIDS.

"Young people listen to what MTV says," said Marilyn Zhu, director of MTV China, adding that the channel had already made several AIDS prevention advertisements that air daily for one minute during prime time.

The HIV/AIDS awareness messages were not clearly targeting audiences. We didn't have enough media saturation, said Filip Noubel, country director for Internews Network. He added that media should bring in more humanity and personality to their anti-AIDS efforts.

HIV/AIDS awareness has been spreading around the world for 20 years.

Henk Bekedam, WHO Representative in China, said only 28 percent of the country's population was fully aware of HIV/AIDS.

China had 183,733 officially reported HIV/AIDS cases in 2006. Experts estimated actual figures are closer to 650,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in China.

(Xinhua News Agency August 3, 2007)

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