Key Correspondents have been working to document the local realities of HIV and health issues for ten years. The team is comprised of 250 writers from 50 countries who come from a variety of backgrounds related to TB, HIV, health and development. Together their independent reporting means those who are not able to tell their stories have a way to be heard.
A large number of the Key Correspondents (KCs) represent people who are affected by and living with HIV. They come from all walks of life and include medical practitioners, NGO workers, journalists and students. Their aim is to connect with key stakeholders and policy makers to champion social and policy change.
This work ties in with the Alliance’s National Partnership Platforms (NPPs), which create a space at the national level for genuine collaboration of civil society organisations and constructive dialogue between civil society and government bodies. NPPs already exist in countries including Kenya, Namibia, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam.
Alongside these activities, the Alliance has been busy building capacity in writing skills through long-distance mentoring.
KCs are able to write articles and upload them onto www.healthdev.net. Content is placed in groups based on geographical region, such as Eastern Africa, Southern Asia and Latin America, or theme such as TB, stigma and children’s rights.
The site is participatory and allows other KCs and registered users to vote on stories, leave comments and generate debate. The best stories are sent out on regional eForums and newsletters, exposing KC stories to an even bigger audience.
As the KCs’ online presence has grown, the team has ventured into social media in order to network and stay connected. These include a KC group on Facebook, a KC thread on Twitter and a group photo pool on Flickr.
The Alliance is now looking into opportunities to produce multimedia, such as podcasts, video journalism and using mobile phones, in order to give KCs a broader range of methods with which to tell their stories.
But not all KCs have access to computers or reliable internet connections so face-to-face training has always been a key element of the programme. Training workshops cover both general and thematic training.
For example, training recently took place in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare where KCs learnt how to craft a basic news story, the art of the interview and about ethics and language.
Meanwhile last September a training session in Bangkok, Thailand, was focused on men who have sex with men (MSM) where KCs wrote about condom use, MSM and stigma and injecting drug use.
Training is occasionally offered at conferences which KCs have frequently attended and reported from. Conferences allow KCs the opportunity to engage with the latest research on HIV and also take part in debates, representing their communities.
Their reports inform those unable to attend and are sometimes included in the conference newspapers or local press. The Alliance is now supporting KCs to get their stories published in more national and international media.
This increased coverage exposes local content, facilitates dialogue, and helps monitor TB and HIV commitments made by governments and other high level policy-making mechanisms.
KCs provide the Alliance a wider reach into communities, they can bring local perspectives to the national and international platforms, the team can serve as an HIV and TB watchdog mechanism by holding policy-makers accountable and they can strengthen national policy work undertaken by NPPs.
As Chheav Aphyra, a KC from Cambodia, puts it: “Being a KC is a good chance for me to share my experience with other people across the world. And such advocacy is important because it helps to improve the life of and reduce the stigma against people living with HIV.”
Key Correspondents come from all walks of life and include medical practitioners, NGO workers, journalists and students.