When it comes to media coverage on issues related to sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression (SOGIE) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), many are event-based, finds a study.

Funded by Lhak-Sam, a civil society organisation (CSO) formed to provide and promote leadership, education and capacity building to people living with HIV (PLHIV) and their families, OxMedia (consultancy) presented their findings at the two-day ‘media engagement on HIV and key population’ held in Punakha.

OxMedia’s co-founder, Tshering Dorji, said that most HIV-related issues covered by the media revolved around events and caseloads.

And the health ministry was sought as the primary source. Second to the health ministry, CSOs were sought as sources.

He added that journalists responding to the questions said that HIV was rarely discussed in the newsroom.

Of the total participants (journalists) around 88 percent stated that HIV was rarely talked about, while the remaining participants said that it was discussed quite often.

Tshering Dorji said that a majority of the reporters also weren’t aware of the reporting guide available for Bhutanese media on SOGIE and HIV.

Further, almost all participants weren’t aware of the meaning of key populations and SOGIE.

The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) considers gay men and other men who have sex with men, sex workers, transgender people, people who inject drugs and prisoners and other incarcerated people as the five main key population groups that are particularly vulnerable to HIV and frequently lack adequate access to services.

Findings further showed that majority of the participants were aware of the difference between HIV and AIDS, and the means of transmission of the HIV.

The interaction between the CSOs (such as Lhak-Sam, Chithuen Phendhey, Association and Pride Bhutan) and the media houses were minimal, the study found. Around 57 percent of the respondents stated that they interacted with each other once every few years and almost 30 percent said they met once every year.

Speaking at the two-day programme, Kuensel’s Managing Director Ugyen Penjor stated that the approach to cover HIV related issues in the media was wrong from the initial stage.

Further, he pointed out that newsrooms continued to face issues of lack of expertise and sources to write on issues related to SOGIE, and HIV and AIDS.

Issues of discrimination, stigma, misuse of certain terminologies in the media, and other challenges were reflected during the programme.

Print journalists, radio jockeys, and representatives from various CSOs attended the two-day programme, which ended on May 28.

The programme was organised by Lhak-Sam.

By Phurpa Lhamo | Punakha

Edited by Jigme Wangchuk