Media leaders have agreed to emphasise HIV/AIDS issues to build awareness of the disease among the people throughout the country.
The media leaders' vow to fight the big challenge came Sunday when 16 senior editors took part in the Bangladesh Media Leadership Meeting on HIV and AIDS at a city hotel. They represented radio, television and print media.
They also urged the government to include representation from the press in the Media and Publicity Committee of the National AIDS Committee.
Information Minister M Shamsul Islam inaugurated the meeting. He called upon the media leaders to strengthen their leadership role in guiding an appropriate response to HIV and AIDS challenges.
"I call upon the media leaders of our country to join me in tearing down the walls of silence, stigma and discrimination that surround the epidemic. Because the fight against HIV/AIDS begins with you", the Information Minister said.
The editors said that capacity building of the media is necessary to report effectively on the issues surrounding HIV/AIDS.
They stressed the need for developing an ethical guideline for reporting on HIV/AIDS.
US-based media organisation Internews Network, in collaboration with the Asia Pacific Leadership Forum on HIV and AIDS, USAID, Policy Project, UNAIDS and UNICEF Bangladesh organised the day-long meeting of media leaders.
Beside Bangladesh, such consultations have already taken place in Pakistan, India and Nepal.
The Daily Sangbad Editor Bazlur Rahman presided over the technical session, facilitated by Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, Editor, Bangladesh Observer.
Earlier Md. Abdus Salim, Programme Manager, National AIDS/STD Programme (NASP) provided an overview of the Bangladesh HIV/AIDS situation.
The Financial Express editor Moazzem Hossain also attended the meeting.
In the technical session Shamsuddin Ahmed, Communication Officer of UNICEF presented a case study report on analyses of HIV/AIDS coverage in the Bangladesh media, produced by Fahimidul Haq, Assistant Professor, Mass Communication and Journalism Department, University of Dhaka. Habiba Akhter of Ashar Alo also made a presentation.
BSS adds: The minister said the identity of any HIV/AIDS affected patient should not be published in the press in the greater interest of his or her personal image as well as that of the family.
"Media can provide new information to help researchers work to prevent the spread of this deadly disease," he said.
Dr. Abdus Selim in his paper said there are 330,000 HIV/AIDS patients in Myanmar, 570,000 in Thailand, 5,100,000 in India, 61,000 in Nepal and 7,500 in Bangladesh.
According to UNICEF, abusers of drugs and sex workers are largely responsible for the gradual rise in the number of HIV-AIDS patients in West-Bengal and India's north- eastern states neighbouring Bangladesh.