On the same day that it was reported that “government’s estimate of annual new HIV infections is likely to rise as much as 50 percent,” news that coincided with the world-wide observance of World AIDS Day, I was shocked to see that only two of the more then two dozen daily newspapers in New York and New Jersey, recognized World AIDS Day on their front pages.
This treatment by media organizations, at least in my area, seems to signal a complacency with AIDS that is dangerous because of the message that action can send. I can recall a time, not that long ago, when World AIDS Day was treated less like a live event (with coverage relegated to the day after) and more as an urgent, almost dire, opportunity. Newspapers used their position in the community to write about the risks of HIV/AIDS, current research and the need for funding to cover drug costs and/or research. Editorial page writers authored moving and passionate pieces about need for action and support.
If it seems like I’m wagging my finger while writing this post, I am. Shame, shame, shame on your newspaper editors and reporters. Even with declines in revenue and advertising, newspapers continue to play an important role in society. They are still a trusted and respected source and they still have a role to play in shaping public opinion and political will. AIDS and all the people it impacts remain an issue that needs the full attention of our industry. AIDS has not become an issue that can be, nor does it deserve to be, relegated to past tense or to an inside page.