Oct. 13, 2009  

FIU Journalism Project on HIV/AIDS to Air on WPBT/Channel 2

MIAMI (Oct. 12, 2009) – A 20-month project by Florida International University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication that produced innovative reports on HIV/AIDS in South Africa and South Florida will be featured in a WPBT/Channel 2 one-hour special titled “Tell Somebody: The New Face of HIV/AIDS.”

The special will air on WPBT2 at 10 p.m. on October 15, National Latino AIDS Awareness Day.

The project was sparked by a class taught in 2008 by School of Journalism and Mass Communication Interim Associate Dean Allan Richards. Through essays, Richards learned four of his 17 students had lost loved ones to AIDS. After doing further research, Richards said it became clear many in the FIU community and South Florida had been impacted by HIV/AIDS, but media cutbacks in health reporting and complacency about drugs used to treat HIV/AIDS had diminished the public’s sense of urgency about the disease, he said.

“This was an opportunity to answer a hunger in the lives of students, the FIU community and the community at large,” Richards said. “We saw that, using creative media initiatives, we could develop a health communication agenda around this disease that could drive a campaign for HIV/AIDS awareness.”

In January 2008, Richards charged his multimedia class with developing a web site about HIV/AIDS. That assignment led to a trip to the epicenter of the epidemic with two journalism students, which resulted in a 30-minute documentary, “Lessons from South Africa.”

Inspired by the South African media’s creative coverage of the disease, Richards’ SJMC colleague Kate MacMillin and her students also produced a four-part dramatic Web series about a 38-year-old HIV positive Latina that was posted on The Miami Herald’s Web site. MacMillin’s series in turn led to a screening/panel discussion that resulted in a gripping Q&A session between FIU students and clinicians from the Miami-Dade County Health Department.

The WPBT/Channel 2 program will include “Lessons from South Africa,” the four-part Web series and excerpts from the Q & A, interspersed with interviews of Richards, MacMillin and Miami Herald Senior Multimedia Editor Rick Hirsch.

“Lessons from South Africa” also will be shown on Sunday, Oct. 25, at 11:45 a.m., at Cinema Paradiso during the 24th Annual Fort Lauderdale Film Festival.

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