HIV Prevention Reporting Fellowship

Increasing coverage of Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC)

The world has made major progress on HIV, notably in sub-Saharan Africa, where the HIV burden is greatest. Increased access to lifesaving treatment and prevention options has led to a steady decline in AIDS-related deaths and HIV incidence. Efforts are underway to build on these gains and expand access to proven tools, including approaches that protect vulnerable populations by preventing new HIV infections.

Ten years ago, researchers first demonstrated that Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) reduces the risk of female-to-male HIV transmission by nearly 60 percent. In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) issued recommendations to implement VMMC in settings with high HIV prevalence and low male circumcision prevalence.

Modeling studies show that rapidly expanding access to VMMC in high-priority countries in East and Southern Africa could prevent an estimated 3.4 million new HIV infections. By the end of 2014, more than 9 million men had chosen to be medically circumcised, an unprecedented rate of uptake in HIV prevention.

However, local and national efforts to scale up VMMC are relatively underreported in priority country media.

ICFJ, in conjunction with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, announces the HIV Prevention Reporting Fellowship. This opportunity is aimed at better equipping journalists with the knowledge and skills to report on VMMC and its implementation as an HIV prevention method.

Journalists from Botswana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe applied for this fellowship.

ICFJ also offered a webinar for potential applicants to ask experts their questions about VMMC and the program. The English webinar took place on September 17, 2015, and the video from the webinar appears here. The Portuguese webinar took place on September 18, 2015 and the video from the webinar appears here.

Following the webinar and the application deadline, a committee of judges selected 20 contest finalists for further mentorship on the topic. The finalists participated in an intensive 4-day story lab in Nairobi, Kenya, from February 22-25, 2016. The lab included briefings on VMMC and HIV prevention, as well as sessions on journalism skill-building, site visits and one-on-one mentoring sessions.

Upon completion of the boot camp, the fellows received two months of mentoring to complete their reporting projects. The three best published stories were selected to take part in a study tour in the United States, scheduled for October 2016.The study tour will focus more generally on HIV prevention methods, building on the participants’ knowledge of VMMC.

Application webinar: September 17
Application deadline: October 19
Kenya Boot Camp participant selection: November
Story lab in Nairobi, Kenya: February 22-25, 2016
Mentorship for stories: February-April 2016
Publishing deadline: April 2016
U.S. Study Tour participant selection: May 2016
U.S. study tour: Late 2016

Useful links on the topic:
AVAC homepage
UNAIDS Action Framework on VMMC
WHO Fact Sheet on VMMC
WHO Progress Briefing on VMMC

Photo is CC licensed via Flickr by user Travis Lupick.