Key Correspondents (KCs) are a network of citizen journalists supported by the Alliance to ‘speak their world’. In Vietnam, the Vietnam Civil Society Partnership Platform on AIDS (VCSPA) has been using these key correspondents, along with experienced journalists and participants from across the Platform’s work, to produce a magazine and website that takes the experiences of people living with HIV in local communities up to programme and policy makers.
Over 10,000 copies of the quarterly magazine are distributed nationwide across 63 provinces to more than 300 distribution points, including all Provincial AIDS Centres and HIV service delivery points such as hospitals and STD clinics. The magazine covers one topic each quarter, looking at the needs of communities and their experiences accessing services and encountering stigma. This is raising the voice and profile of people living with HIV and influencing policy change.
For example, articles about incorrect and corrupt prescription of ARVs by doctors in the magazine got a strong and positive reaction from the government to stop the abuse that was seeing doctors playing on people’s fear of disclosure and extracting money from them to get ARV prescriptions.
Similarly, reports in the magazine about the government’s discriminatory policies against people living with HIV accessing assisted reproductive services such as IVF, so they can safely start families, has led to the government starting to respond to their concerns.
A recent issue on drug resistance highlighted key issues around access to second line ARV treatments and adherence difficulties. The success of the magazine in all these cases is in building consensus on an issue and putting pressure on the government for change.
Experienced journalists help participants and KCs working on the magazine to develop their stories, but the journalists are also encouraged to use the material for their own newspapers – as a way of bringing the issues to a wider audience. Participants and KCs brief them, give personal experiences, and help the journalists to contact relevant individuals for their stories. One area where there has been particular success is getting stories about stigma and discrimination published.
The project also gets journalists to know people living with HIV personally, and helps them to report on the issues in a positive, informed and empathetic way. One example is a photojournalist who has organised an exhibition on the lives of people living with HIV as a result of his work with the project, travelling across the country to get personal stories and photos of people living with HIV. The exhibition was widely reported in the media with the director and vice director of the AIDS control programme both attending.
Over 10,000 copies of the quarterly magazine are distributed nationwide