In Nigeria, the HIV prevalence rate is estimated to be between six and ten percent. Since Nigeria is sub-Saharan Africa’s most populous country, that translates into millions of people living with the virus that causes AIDS. A number of health experts say one of the reasons for the spread of the disease is that many people still deny it exists.
UN health officials say because of Nigeria’s large population, it will determine the course of sub-Saharan Africa’s AIDS pandemic.
As a result, government agencies and non-governmental organizations are trying to raise awareness about such things as risky sexual behavior, intravenous drug use, and sexual violence.
One of the ngo’s is a media-based group called Journalists Against AIDS. Kingsley Obon-Egbulem is an information research officer at the Lagos headquarters.
"The idea was conceived shortly after the death of Afro-beat music legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti. You know he died in 1997. And shortly after his death there was a vacuum in the media about HIV/AIDS, which was the cause of his death. And so that was the beginning of the concept of Journalists Against AIDS."
He says at the time, there was little media coverage of the pandemic. One reason, a lack of knowledge on the part of journalists.
"I think we can say that journalists or the media generally knew just a little about HIV/AIDS. The media couldn’t really report HIV/AIDS in context – couldn’t rally focus its stories about HIV because the understanding of the issues was really, really poor. And so, you need to really understand an issue before you can effectively report about that."
Mr. Obon-Egbulem says more than one thousand journalists have taken the group’s HIV/AIDS awareness courses. Another 500 are currently doing so.
"We have an on-going project now to reach the leadership of the media associations in Nigeria. That is the Nigerian Union of Journalists, the national Association of Women journalists, the Nigeria League of Editors. And the essence of this project is to train the leadership of these media associations, so that they can in turn pass on the training to their members."
Journalists Against AIDS says its goal is a “Nigerian society where all persons are able to freely access information, facilities and services on health…and to use these for their personal protection and national development.”