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Domestic Media Partnership Urged for AIDS Awareness
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In a bid to raise public AIDS awareness among Chinese people, a China Media Partnership meeting was held by the Global Business Coalition on HIV-AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria (GBC) in Beijing on August 20.

GBC, headquartered in New York, is an alliance of more than 200 international companies. It works to improve the business sector's comprehensive workplace policies, community programs, leadership, advocacy, and public-private partnerships in the global drive to eradicate these deadly illnesses.

A group of Chinese media companies, including China Central Television (CCTV), Health News, Fortune China, and Orient Media as well as online portals China.org.cn and Qianlong.com participated in the meeting. In addition, officials from UNAIDS, WHO, UNESCO, and China's Ministry of Health were in attendance.

The meeting was held in preparation for the official launch of the China Media Partnership to Combat HIV/AIDS (CMP), hoping to convince influential domestic media to offer free advertising space for the campaign. The move was inspired by the successful implementation of the Russian Media Partnership. 

"Utilizing a wide variety of communication channels, television, radio, print, internet, consumer products, and outdoor advertising, our campaign seeks to improve awareness of HIV/AIDS among the Chinese population, increase understanding of effective prevention strategies and safe behaviors, and shape more tolerant attitudes toward people living with HIV/AIDS," said John Tedstrom, Executive Director of GBC, at the meeting.

Many speakers discussed how to widen existing media coverage about the issue to the common readers and viewers in China.  An important aspect of this is how to make coverage entertaining and communicable while avoiding cultural offense and presenting the message in a way that will be acceptable to many who still consider the topic of sex sensitive. Media professionals also stressed that different representation should be attached to different target groups.

This HIV/AIDS public awareness campaign is designed to deliver public service messages and mainstream HIV/AIDS coverage through: a coordinated cross-platform, cross-market public service announcements campaign; HIV/AIDS news, analytical and entertainment programming; specialized training for journalists; special events; and, free access to educational resources.

"Viacom recognizes the serious threat posed by HIV/AIDS to the future of China, and are committed to utilizing our media resources to help slow the spread of the epidemic and tackle the stigma and discrimination against people living with HIV/AIDS," Marilyn Zhu, director of marketing & communications for Viacom Beijing Office, announced in an interview.

At the end of 2005, China had an estimated 650,000 people living with HIV/AIDS, 75,000 of whom had fully-progressed AIDS, according to a joint study by the Ministry of Health, WHO, and UNAIDS.

The latest figures suggest that about 200 people a day in China contracted AIDS or HIV last year, during which 60,000 to 80,000 new HIV infections were recorded. Most of the infections occurred due to unsafe sex, accounting for 49.8 percent of total cases. This indicates that HIV/AIDS is spreading from high-risk groups to the general public.

"Although less than 0.1 percent of China's population is currently infected, the potential costs of the epidemic should not be underestimated. A 2002 study estimated that HIV/AIDS could shave between 22.5-40 billion yuan (US$3 billion to 5.3 billion) from China's GDP by 2010," said Mr. Tedstrom. "So, it's time to let the public know more about the situation and stop that from happening."

Since its foundation in November 2005, GBC's China office has organized many events to fights against HIV/AIDS in the country. GBC members currently include such domestic companies as Sohu.com, Horizon Group, Guilin Goban, and Qingdao Double Butterfly.

This past May, a campaign targeting migrant workers was launched by GBC to raise their awareness about HIV. The program was jointly supported by China's Ministry of Health and its membership companies Bayer and Coca Cola, and aided by many Chinese youth volunteers. Over 100,000 playing cards with HIV/AIDS information were distributed on trains and construction sites to migrant workers, as well as the employees of Bayer and Coca Cola.

"In the coming years, GBC will actively recruit additional Chinese and foreign members and facilitate the development of beneficial programs consistent with national policy efforts," Michael Shui, Chief Representative for the GBC Beijing office, explained.

(China.org.cn by Wang Zhiyong, August 22, 2007)

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