The Press Council guidelines on media reporting on HIV/AIDS, stipulate that:
• Media must inform and educate, not alarm or scare people. The emphasis must be on
the fact that HIV infection can be prevented. The HIV virus, which does not survive
for long outside a body, takes around 10 years to develop into AIDS. It is not spread
by casual contact, hugging or kissing or through food or water or through insects.
• Media must hammer home the point that AIDS through sexual transmission or blood
transfusion can be prevented. Minimum precautions include use of condoms during
sexual intercourse and of sterilising all instruments that pierce the skin, such as needles,and their prompt disposal after use.
• Media must report every case pertaining to AIDS be it positive or negative. There must be constant liaison between the media and the medical profession to report on latest developments and research findings.
• Media must highlight and crusade against such practices as quarantining, isolation and ostracism of AIDS patients. Besides being an affront to human dignity, such practices will not help minimise HIV/AIDS infection, and are injurious to public health as they give a false sense of security to people outside the stigmatised group that the threat of infection has been removed and the need for precaution minimised. Also, such practices will drive the AIDS problem underground and make the campaign against the disease more difficult.
• Community education, supported by behavioural scientists and media experts using the latest techniques of mass education, has to play a crucial role in preventing this dreaded infection. Opinion builders of the society (political and religious leaders, movie and sports personalities, and other famous persons) must take the leadership in educating people about HIV/AIDS and about how to avoid contracting this infection. The innovative use of media and a positive attitude in reporting would go a long way in making the AIDS awareness campaign a success.
• Media must force the authorities to impose rigorous blood-testing norms for prostitutes and ‘professional’ women and issue periodical warnings to the public about areas where there is high incidence of AIDS.
Media must help the authorities in eliminating commercial blood collection and pretesting of all blood donors for HIV and other diseases.
• Media must, as a rule, respect the right to privacy of HIV/AIDS patients and must not subject them to needless exposure and social stigma.
• Every mass medium must observe the terms specified in the final document of the
international consultation on AIDS and human rights and promptly report the violation
of such rights, protecting the basic human rights to life and liberty, privacy and freedom of movement.