The Star gets to the heart of Lebese’s story

  • Kim Johnson - 28 January 2013

Soccer star’s untimely death from an AIDS-related illness is finally covered in a way that reinforces messages around the availability and efficacy of HIV treatment.

When former Bafana Bafana soccer ace Thabang Lebese died a little under a year ago, reports that revealed that he had succumbed to an AIDS-related illness were unquestioning and uncritical.

At the time, reports which appeared in all the major papers failed to ask the crucial question: Why did Lebese die of a condition which has been rendered manageable thanks to free and effective antiretroviral treatment (ART)?

This week The Star revived Lebese’s story and in doing so not only boosted this important story’s longevity but also stepped up and made no bones about the fact that Lebese’s death was preventable.

Sporting the bold headline ‘Break the silence on HIV and live longer’, The Star’s article details how Lebese’s family are speaking out to address HIV-related stigma. The article recognises that stigma is one of the major obstacles stymieing access to treatment and support for people living with HIV.

And in case the headline left readers in any doubt, the article itself unequivocally states that Lebese “didn’t have to die” because the world’s largest and arguably most successful ART programme was in his own backyard.

The Star has re-harnessed Lebese’s star power to successfully communicate to the public that HIV is a chronic but manageable condition, a message that is crucial in a country where HIV’s status as a death sentence still lingers.

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“The Star has re-harnessed Lebese’s star power, successfully communicating that HIV is a chronic but manageable condition”