Tag Archives: Media

Positive Hell: Silencing The HIV Heretics

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A controversial documentary has been censored by the London Independent Film Festival.

A screening of a documentary aimed at ‘exposing the myths of HIV and AIDS’ has been cancelled after threats of protest. Positive Hell, which features five individuals who have refused antiviral drugs for HIV and lived to tell the tale, was due to be screened at the London Independent Film Festival (LIFF). But it’s now been pulled from the programme.

Story via Spiked, a free speech website.
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Producer and narrator of Positive Hell, Joan Shenton, tells me she is ‘flabbergasted’ by the move, adding that LIFF caved in to a ‘handful of emails’ designed to ‘shut down debate’ about HIV treatment. The email Shenton received from LIFF festival director, Erich Schultz, stated that ‘major HIV/AIDS organisations contacted me today, urging me not to screen Positive Hell, and warning of protests [against] LIFF, my screening venue and our sponsors if we don’t comply’. Shenton suggested the event should go ahead as planned despite the protests, but Schultz said he would not reconsider. Shenton says she had previously suggested a Q&A session to accompany the film screening, because she knew the film was ‘likely to provoke a heated discussion’. This suggestion was overlooked.

Shenton is known for her controversial views on what she calls the ‘HIV orthodoxy’, whereby, she claims, unnecessary antiviral treatment is being foisted on patients due to the influence of the pharmaceutical industry. However, she says she has never before experienced such blatant censorship: ‘We have had these kinds of protests in the past and just ignored them. What does it matter if, in a free society, some people demonstrate outside?’

According to some students in particular, it matters a lot. In Schultz’s email to Shenton he said he had received ‘20 protest letters, including one from the LGBT society of the university [University of London] where I teach (and where all of my selection committee comes from)’. As the University of London includes Birkbeck, King’s College, Queen Mary, UCL, Royal Holloway and Goldsmiths (all of which received a Red ranking in spiked’s Free Speech University Rankings), it’s unsurprising they wanted to block Shenton’s film.

You can watch the film in it’s entirety below, and visit their website www.positivehell.com

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Russian TV presenter hopes revealing his HIV status will promote tolerance

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Russia is struggling with an HIV epidemic, but you could be excused for thinking that the problem did not exist at all. Sex education and HIV and Aids prevention are not topics for schools, and public service advertising and media coverage is rare. Even many healthcare professionals prefer to avoid the topic.

But while Charlie Sheen-style HIV revelations by celebrities are also unheard of in the country, this week a television presenter, Pavel Lobkov, declared that he was HIV-positive during a live broadcast on TV.

Story via
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Lobkov and activists said they hoped that his statement, broadcast by the small independent channel TV Rain, would jump-start public discussion about the issue, as the number of new HIV cases sky-rocketed.

“It’s not the done thing to talk for real [about HIV], and in Russia it’s a real problem,” Lobkov said. “Maybe after this shock there will be a discussion about what these medicines are, and are there enough doctors specialising in this, is their knowledge adequate to treat HIV infections?”

Lobkov said during the broadcast that he had discovered he had HIV in 2003 while working for the NTV channel. Immediately after he was diagnosed his doctor refused to treat him, telling him he was being excluded from the NTV insurance programme.

Since then Lobkov had had trouble finding treatment for mundane conditions. He said it took him about a year to find a dentist willing to perform an implant procedure after several told him his HIV status would cause complications, despite research showing such concerns to be baseless.

According to Lena Groznova, an activist at the HIV-prevention group Andrey Rylkov Foundation, such ignorance about HIV is common even among healthcare workers, due to the lack of public service information. She said public perception of HIV was outdated and associated the condition with a “quick death”. Widespread disapproval of gay relationships and drug use also played a role.

“Few people from the general population know that a therapy exists that allows people to support their [HIV] status. Even among specialists we run into, police, doctors, have a stigma and fear of HIV people that doesn’t match the threat, which is none,” Groznova said.

Lobkov said several doctors had contacted him in recent days to tell him about HIV-positive patients who did not seek treatment or register for state-provided medicine for fear that their infected status would have a bad impact on their professional and personal lives.

Russia is one of the few countries where the number of HIV cases is rapidly growing. According to the federal Aids centre, at least 986,657 Russians were officially registered as HIV-positive as of 1 November, and the number of new cases had risen by 12% this year.

A consumer oversight agency official in St Petersburg said last month that Russia faced an HIV epidemic. But while the government has increased spending to treat Aids, state policy on fighting HIV has focused on abstinence from sex and drugs, rather than harm reduction programmes.

A message from the Ryazan city government for World Aids Day on Tuesday declared that “even one single sexual contact, even one dose of drugs, can cause HIV infection”.

The state-run Russian Strategic Research Institute said in a report, in October, that rather than adopting western methods, Russia needed to develop an HIV and Aids prevention programme to “reflect real national interests”.

Opioid substitution treatment with substances such as methadone, which aims to help users gradually lose their addiction and is frequently used in the west, is illegal. The Andrey Rylkov Foundation is one of the few groups that hands out clean needles and condoms to at-risk groups such as drug users.

Although the Moscow city Aids prevention centre recently began an advertising campaign around the slogan “Friendship doesn’t transmit HIV”, it was not enough, Groznova said.

Lobkov said: “The government can fight social phobias, it should have information campaigns on tolerance, acceptance. If there will be tolerance, people will go do [HIV] tests, then they will go [to] therapy, and the epidemic will start to die.”

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Free Training: HIV in the Spotlight: TV and Film

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  • When: Wednesday 14th October 2015: 5:30-8pm

  • Where: The Michael Wood Centre (LE1 6YF MAP)

  • Light refreshments will be available from 5-6pm

HIV is portrayed in many different ways in the news, TV soaps, documentaries and on film.  We will look at the different portrayals and discuss the different information, perspectives, and messages they provide to the viewing audience.

Since HIV first emerged, it’s never really been out of the news.  It is still one of the most pressing health challenges we face in our world.  In the early days, little was known about the virus. There was a great deal of fear about how it was spread and many people died from HIV-related illnesses.  That’s a legacy which AIDS has left behind and in part, fuels ignorance, stigma and prejudice today.

Today, treatment has revolutionised what it means to live with HIV.  Having HIV is no longer a death sentence and if someone is diagnosed early and is treated, they will not go on to develop AIDS.  Instead, they can live a long life, work, exercise, even have children if they choose.

Despite rapid advances in treatment, social attitudes are changing much more slowly. Evidence shows public knowledge of HIV in the UK is declining and there is a worrying lack of understanding about HIV.

The media play an important role in communicating to the public what exactly it means to live with HIV today.  Understanding the advances in knowledge and treatment around HIV is vital to portraying and reporting accurately about HIV.  An accurate view will provide benefits in public health, dispells myths, undermines prejudice, increase understanding and make for a better story line if adopted correctly.  The media should contribute realistically in the way that HIV is addressed around the world.

We know that an accurate depiction of HIV has always been – and still is – a challenge. HIV and its ramifications are complex to portray withinh scrips, fiction and the news.  This session will be of benefit to anyone who is interested in film, HIV or an interesting social discussion.

CALL US: 0116 2559995 or email: training@lass.org.uk to reserve your space!

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Who do you think we are? An insight into the lives of sex workers.

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A short season of six films offering insights into the lives of sex workers.

Delivered in partnership with Firefly Leicester Community Interest Company and supported by the Big Lottery Fund, the season aims to raise awareness amongst care professionals and the public of how stigmatised representations of sex workers can have a life-threatening impact upon them.

Following each of the films – three of them Italian, three British – there will be Q&A sessions for the audience to explore stereotypes and prejudices with guest speakers including activists, researchers and former sex workers.

Please see individual films for more details. All films are free and seats allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.

Personal services

Thurs 12 Feb 7pm FREE
1987, Terry Jones, UK

Personal-Services

Waitress and single mother, Christine struggles to make ends meet. She thus decides first to prostitutes herself and then, with a business-like, practical turn of mind, opens what will become a successful brothel. Inspired by a true story.

Guest speakers: – Stand-up Comedian and former sex worker Miranda Kane  and Professor of British Cinema Steve Chibnell (DMU)

ROCCO E I SUOI FRATELLI (ROCCO AND HIS BROTHERS)

Thurs 19 Feb 7pm FREE
1960, Luchino Visconti, Italy (subtitled)

Rocco

A controversial masterpiece. A sterile sense of male honour leads to violence and death. Recently immigrated to Milan from southern Italy, Rocco and his brothers seek a better future when a young disenchanted woman enters their lives.

Guest speaker: Sharon Wood (University of Leicester)

IRENA PALM

Thurs 26 Feb 7pm FREE
2007, Sam Garbarski, UK, Belgium, France.

Irena

Middle-aged Maggie must find a way to get enough money for her grandson’s lifesaving medical treatment. When a ‘Hostess Wanted’ sign catches her eye, Maggie naively stumbles into a city sex club. Shy Maggie has a rough start at ‘Sexy World’, more than just a train ride from her conservative suburb.

Guest speaker: Director of Services at Ugly Mugs and a member of the National Police Working Group on Prostitution Alex Bryce

MATRIMONIO ALL’ITALIANA (MARRIAGE ITALIAN STYLE)

Thurs 5 March 7pm FREE
1964, Vittorio De Sica, Italy (subtitled)

Marriage-Italian-Style

In Naples, in the Second World War, the businessman Domenico Soriano meets the seventeen years old prostitute Filumena Marturano (Sophia Loren) in a brothel during an allied bombing. Flash forward to the post-war years, and the two meet again, sparking a passionate affair that spans two decades.

Guest speaker: Pia Covre, vice-president  of the Committee for Prostitutes Civil Rights, Italy.

NORMAL

Thurs 12 Mar 7pm FREE
2012, Nick Mai, UK.

Nick-Mai

Normal is creative documentary based on original anthropological research on the relationship between migration, the sex industry and sex trafficking. The film brings the real life stories of male, female and transgender migrants working in the sex industry to the screen.

Guest speaker: To be confirmed.

LA BOCCA DEL LUPO (THE MOUTH OF THE WOLF)

Thur 19 Mar 7pm FREE
2009, Pietro Marcello, Italy (subtitled)

Wolf

Multi-award winning Pietro Marcello’s feature documentary unfolds a beautiful love story between Mary and Enzo who have been waiting and wanting each other since they first met behind bars. Set in the Italian port town of Genoa, the film is a tribute to love and to the city.

Guest speaker: Porpora Marcasciano, president of the MIT (Transsexual Identity Movement), and director of Divergenti – Festival Internazionale di Cinema Transessuale, Bologna, Italy

Information via Phoenix & Leicester Red Project

The Leicester Red Project is a six week season that aims to raise awareness around the stereotypical and stigmatizing representations of sex workers.  For more information, please visit their website: http://www.leicesterredproject.co.uk/

 

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Portrayal of HIV in the media & The Leveson Inquiry

The Prime Minister announced a two-part inquiry investigating the role of the press and police in the phone-hacking scandal, on 13 July 2011.

Lord Justice Leveson was appointed as Chairman of the Inquiry.  The first part will examine the culture, practices and ethics of the media. In particular, Lord Justice Leveson will examine the relationship of the press with the public, police and politicians.  He is assisted by a panel of six independent assessors with expertise in key issues being considered by the Inquiry.

The Inquiry will make recommendations on the future of press regulation and governance consistent with maintaining freedom of the press and ensuring the highest ethical and professional standards.

Lord Justice Leveson opened the hearings on Monday 14 November 2011, saying: “The press provides an essential check on all aspects of public life. That is why any failure within the media affects all of us. At the heart of this Inquiry, therefore, may be one simple question: who guards the guardians?”

A major concern for people living with HIV in the UK and the organisations that support them is the number of articles in the media that sensationalise and stigmatise HIV and unfairly represent individuals living with the virus.

Stories in the media can have a positive effect in increasing people’s awareness of HIV and what it means to live with HIV. However media reports about HIV are often stigmatising or inaccurate. Many stories contribute to a culture of blame about HIV transmission, focusing on so-called irresponsible sexual activity, use judgmental language and stereotype people living with HIV.

Improving the media’s coverage of HIV issues is vital to tackle discrimination experienced by people living with HIV, improve people’s knowledge and help prevent the spread of the virus.

Portrayal of HIV in the media

There are very few public figures who are open about their HIV status, and currently no established characters living with HIV in mainstream soaps or television dramas.   NAT are calling for proactive initiatives to portray realistic HIV stories in the media, with the BBC and Channel 4 taking the lead as part of their statutory duty to promote disability equality.

As well as in the media, NAT would like to see greater, and supportive, visibility for people living with HIV both in cultural representation and public life.

NAT recently made a submission to the Leveson Inquiry, which is examining the culture, practices and ethics of the media, and made the case for the need to tackle the frequent inaccuracies still written about HIV in the press and the use of stigmatising and prejudicial language.  You can read NAT’s submission to the Leveson Inquiry here.

Guidelines on Reporting HIV

NAT and the National Union of Journalists have jointly produced Guidelines on Reporting HIV to help journalists make sure that the articles that they write are not misleading and do not encourage negative perceptions about HIV.

You can read what NAT is saying to editors and journalists to improve reporting on HIV here.

Press Gang

Press Gang is an online group of people living with HIV who are interested in challenging stigmatising coverage in the media and making their voices heard. The National AIDS Trust keep Press Gang members informed of any stigmatising or inaccurate coverage and give them advice on how to challenge it.

Every day they scan many newspapers online and check other media for mentions of HIV and AIDS. Any articles that are identified as stigmatising or inaccurate are sent to Press Gang members via email as a ‘stigma alert’.

Members are then encouraged to write a letter to the editor or add a comment online pointing out why this article is stigmatising or inaccurate and informing readers about the realities of living with HIVin the UK.

If you’re living with HIV and are interested in challenging stigma in the media then you can find out more about find out more about joining ‘Press Gang’ here.

What’s in the news?

NAT scans the media in the UK and worldwide daily for stories relating to HIV and produces a summary of the main stories of the week, with online links to the original article. You can read the latest news here.  Where they identify inaccurate reporting of HIV, they always challenge it.

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