Media Must Stop Stigmatising People Living With HIV: Malaysian AIDS Council

The Malaysian AIDS Council urges the media to stop the negative stereotyping of people living with HIV (PLHIV), after a tabloid disclosed the HIV status of a pregnant woman undergoing trial without her consent, triggering negative connotations about PLHIV.

KUALA LUMPUR, June 28 — The Malaysian AIDS Council (MAC) has urged local media practitioners to be more sensitive of negative sentiments and prejudices that might be discriminatory against People Living with HIV (PLHIV) in media coverage. 

This call to action follows the publication of an article by a prominent tabloid newspaper, which disclosed the HIV status of a pregnant woman undergoing trial without her consent.

The article, published on June 19, 2024, was widely discussed and went viral on social media. 

The disclosure of the woman’s HIV status within the context of an ongoing criminal trial has inadvertently fostered negative connotations towards the PLHIV community. 

This situation raises concerns about the increase of stigma and discrimination against this community. 

“MAC, representing the voices of over 70,000 PLHIV nationwide, strongly hopes for cooperation from all parties to stop the negative stereotyping of PLHIV in the media,” said Dr Raja Iskandar Shah Raja Azwa, MAC president. 

“Malaysia is currently facing the challenge of HIV transmission through sexual means, with many individuals unaware of their HIV status and reluctant to come forward for screening due to stigma and discrimination.

“This issue has the potential to prevent many PLHIV from coming forward and accessing care, and can lead to self-isolation due to fear of societal rejection,” added Dr Raja Iskandar Shah. 

“Our recommendation aligns with the goals and aspirations of the National Strategic Plan to End AIDS by 2030, as outlined by the Ministry of Health. The plan emphasises media involvement in creating a supportive environment to reduce stigma and discrimination, and to increase access to HIV treatment and care.”

MAC is seeking the support of local media practitioners to act with greater prudence and adhere to journalistic ethics in their coverage of the PLHIV community. 

MAC is planning to conduct HIV and AIDS awareness programmes with media practitioners across the country. The main objective of these programs is to train media professionals on ethical writing and planning techniques that do not discriminate against PLHIV and marginalized communities.

Additionally, MAC aims to share information about successful advocacy efforts, the development of new PLHIV-friendly policies, and the latest advancements in HIV prevention and treatment science. 

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