Knight Chair joins training workshops in India and Sri Lanka




Photo: Courtesy of Bruce Garrison

Professors Bruce Garrison (left) and Joseph B. Treaster (right) pause while touring the historic Bangalore Palace, home of the Wodeyar rajas of Mysore, in Bangalore.


Photo by: Jim Kelly, Indiana University

Prince Manavendra Singh attends Vadodara workshop.
By Jyotika Ramaprasad

Under the auspices of a US Department of State grant, faculty members from the University of Miami School of Communication went to India and Sri Lanka to conduct a series of training workshops for journalists and non-government organizations working to address HIV/AIDS issues. Joining James Kelly, Indiana University associate professor, and Jyotika Ramaprasad, SoC Professor, who are co-Principal Investigators for the grant, were Joseph B. Treaster, Knight Chair for Cross-Cultural Communication, and Bruce Garrison, a professor in the Journalism Program.

The team traveled to Vadodara, Hyderabad and Bangalore in India and to Colombo in Sri Lanka in the first half of January 2009. Apart from Indian and Sri Lankan participants, two journalists from Pakistan attended the Colombo workshop, adding a cross-cultural dimension and exchange.

The training program will continue into the next year. Its main goal is to built capacity and create interface between journalists and HIV/AIDS NGOs.

Workshops & Contest

Each of the workshops began with a talk by a medical doctor on HIV/AIDS facts, including modes of transmission and local statistics, and included lectures, discussion, generation of story ideas, writing and editing of stories, and journalism ethics. The journalists interviewed the NGOs as sources, and team members critiqued the stories, assisting participants with content and language. NGOs also provided feedback pointing out to journalists how language can create stigma and diminish hope.

The journalists now have the opportunity to further edit and improve their stories, and enter final drafts into a contest. Writers of the top three stories will attend a larger workshop in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in January 2010.

Highlight

One of the highlights of the trip was that HRH Shri Manavendra Singh Gohil of the princely state of Rajpipla attended the workshop in Vadodara. Manavendra Singh is the founder and chairman of the Lakshya Trust, a community-based organization (CBO) dedicated to HIV/AIDS education and prevention among men who have sex with men (MSMs). Lakshya won the UNAIDS Civil Society Award in 2006 for its contribution in preventing HIV/AIDS among homosexual men.

Ramaprasad has studied this CBO's HIV/AIDS prevention strategies to assess its use of participatory and dialogic communication to make change. The MSM community is among those considered to be at high risk for HIV/AIDS, and prevention efforts are being increasingly focused on it. In India, acknowledgement of the community is a post-HIV/AIDS phenomenon.

Media coverage and awareness

While the workshop addressed coverage of HIV in general with no particular emphasis on any high-risk community, Prince Manavendra Singh's presence raised awareness of the critical need to ensure that media coverage of HIV/AIDS within this community stay focused on health. During the workshop, the Prince spoke of the vitally important role the media can play in providing facts and thereby deflating myths that are harmful to prevention and treatment efforts.

Prince Manavendra Singh has been interviewed several times in Western media including on Oprah Winfrey.

Posted on February 4, 2009