Two journalists with RFE’s Tajik Service, Radio Ozodi, have been recognized for their outstanding coverage of HIV/AIDS in Tajikistan. In a ceremony held in Dushanbe, Firuz Barotov and Shahloi Gulkhoja were presented awards for “Best Coverage of HIV/AIDS Problems in Media.” The annual award was sponsored by Tajikistan’s Ministry of Health, The Center of Prevention of HIV/AIDS, and the Joint United Nations Program on HIV and AIDS.
Barotov and Gulkhoja have worked to remove the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS in Tajikistan, where the illness is often associated with drug addicts, and almost never reported on in local media. The two journalists have produced web and radio features on the struggles of HIV/AIDS-infected children and the importance of treatment for the disease -- even fiinding HIV/AIDS sufferers willing to speak with the media, which can be quite difficult in Tajikistan. HIV/AIDs is a serious problem in the country and the number of those infected is growing rapidly. The UNDP believes that the number of those infected in the country has risien to over 60,000.
The award has been given since 2007, with Radio Ozodi reporters winning every year except 2009. Besides the recognition, Barotov and Gulkhoja both received a digital camera as a prize.