Fill in the bl_nks

  • Kim Johnson - 12 February 2013

Another less-than-accurate reader’s story in DRUM magazine illustrates the need for the magazine to seize opportunities to provide information that is accurate and complete when reader’s accounts fall short of the facts.

Last week journAIDS blogged about DRUM magazine missing a prime opportunity to provide practical information on post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and HIV testing in the context of rape.

This week DRUM’s readers’ story platform featured another HIV-related personal account, this time specifically relating to mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

But despite the fact that the readers’ story provided only partial information on mother-to-child transmission, DRUM failed to set the facts straight on this important subject.

The fact that mother-to-child transmission is almost entirely preventable strengthens the case for the provision of information that is accurate and complete.

In her story titled ‘Dangerous liaisons’ Thuli (not her real name) explains how her husband’s infidelity led to her becoming infected with HIV.

Thuli says she then passed the virus on to her infant son “through breast milk”.

While it is entirely possible that Thuli’s son contracted HIV via his mother’s breast milk, there are other routes of mother-to-child transmission.

HIV can be transmitted vertically from mother-to-child during the course of pregnancy as well as during labour and delivery and during breastfeeding.

This is why (depending on the mother’s CD4 count) HIV-positive pregnant women are given ARV prophylaxis or are initiated on lifelong antiretroviral treatment (ART).

In addition to the mother’s treatment, infants are given a daily dose of Nevirapine until breastfeeding stops.

These interventions reduce the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV from 35 per cent without any interventions, to a minute two per cent.

But if the neither of these interventions is in place, the risk of the baby contracting HIV during or immediately after delivery is actually much higher compared to the risk of HIV infection during pregnancy or breastfeeding. 

As we’ve argued last week, it would be unethical for DRUM to violate and invalidate their readers’ personal experience by changing their stories.

However the addition of separate supplementary information, which enhances and fills in the blanks left by the reader’s personal account is well within DRUM’s control.

DRUM needs to ensure it mitigates the impact of partial or incorrect information included in reader’s stories by seizing the opportunity to offer readers accurate and complete supplementary information.

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“DRUM needs to ensure it mitigates the impact of partial or incorrect information included in reader’s stories ”