By Andrew Goyvaerts
“Scaremongering”, a word that can itself put fear into anyone who is attempting to highlight something in the public domain, friends who are journalist or advocates continuously speak about the pressure of trying to find a balance between representing a social issue in an honest manner that shows the impact this is having with being accused of instilling fear and panic. It’s a matter that can sometimes feel particularly constraining when highlighting HIV.
The era of ART has brought with it longevity of life along with a higher standard of health than was previously associated with the condition, a side that needs to be represented, and in ways it is understandable why some might be sensitive towards the inluences of HIV before the ART era being highlighted or consider it “scaremongering”, however, in some instances it is necessary to do so, one example is Northern Ireland where in 2014, 51% of diagnoses were at a late stage.
In a case like this the past is the present with conditions like PCP still being reported, of course people will say this is because treatment is not sought but what better way to encourage people to seek treatment than to remind them of the past when treatment did not exist which for these people, it essentially doesn’t, for a time at least.
Many friends who are journalists in Ireland currently face this problem daily when trying to report on gangland feuding and an upsurge in drug use, particularly heroine, making their job seem increasingly difficult to do. I spoke with a wise woman recently who said “art is about having impact and taking people out of their comfort zone”, the same can be said of reporting on a social issue, taking people out of their comfort zone is essential to having an impact. In the same respect though, we must have regard for sensitivity and the feelings of other people, so where is the balance?
For me, after several years of writing, that balance is still trying to be found and no doubt as society continues to evolve the balance will have to be readjusted but lately I get the feeling that I have possibly been guilty of downplaying HIV, or certainly my own diagnoses, out of fear that, like in the past, people will say it is “scaremongering”. Perhaps along with expecting balanced reporting we should also readjust the balance of what we allow to offend us, that one I am definitely guilty of. (Just a thought)