Sowetan pursues HIV related story

  • Kim Johnson & Maxine Birch - 3 September 2013

The Sowetan provides tenacious HIV-related investigative journalism.

Last week the Sowetan prioritised the story of an infant who was misdiagnosed as HIV-positive, running two stories (20 and 22 August 2013) which exposed and investigated the bungling of the procedure.

Impressively, after initially exposing the situation in a page 2 report on 20 August 2013, the Sowetan followed up the story on 22 August 2013, probing further into the matter with comment from the National Health Laboratory services (NHLS). The story once again made page 2, not only highlighting the paper’s commitment to prioritising HIV news but, more remarkably providing a follow-up on an HIV-related story.

Interviews with a range of sources meant the story not only answered important technical questions but also illustrated the consequences the misdiagnosis triggered within the family.

Sources included the child’s parents, the civil society organisation TAC, a Gauteng Health Department spokesperson and the NHLS. The Sowetan also unsuccessfully tried to elicit comment from the hospital responsible for the misdiagnosis.

The Sowetan holds fast to another ingredient of good journalism through its attempts to uncover where the mistake happened, therefore holding parties involved to account.

HIV-related stories are often side-lined for what are seen as bigger, more saleable stories. As a result journalists are seldom granted the time and resources to prioritise HIV-related stories in this way.

But in this case the Sowetan broke the trend, showing that if pursued fully HIV can be a very newsworthy topic.

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“The Sowetan broke the trend, showing that if pursued fully HIV can be a very newsworthy topic”