Box 9.3

Giving journalists the right information at the right time

By Salim Abdool Karim, MBChB, PhD, Director of CAPRISA, Nelson R Mandela School of Medicine at the University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

I did my first microbicide clinical trial in 1994. Fifteen years later I’m still learning. One thing I’ve gained in my experiences is that the media—particularly print media and the radio—are amazingly powerful allies. They really have such an important role to play in informing and in educating people about HIV/AIDS.

We shouldn’t let the occasional blip sully any of that relationship. They do a superb job. Our task as researchers is just to ensure that we provide them with the kinds of information that contribute to improving the public’s understanding of what we’re trying to do and where we’re trying to go.

As a scientist, I know we have breakthroughs all the time, but they are often miniscule. They are barely a single step of one of the four legs of a tortoise. You can’t be going around all the time to the newspapers and saying ‘This is really newsworthy.’ Rather, you have to wait for there to be big news and something worthwhile putting in the news.