GLAAD Report: US South Lacks HIV, LGBTQ-Related News Coverage

A new report shows that some local news outlets in the South are failing to address HIV and LGBTQ-related issues in news coverage.
REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD released a new report on September 23 highlighting a lack of local news coverage on LGBTQ and HIV-related issues in the South.

Findings from the debut report, Local Media Accountability Index – US South,  which was compiled from June 2019 to December 2020, revealed that local news outlets in nine states, including Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi, have poorly addressed the HIV/AIDS crisis facing LGBTQ communities of color. According to the report, out of 1,300 stories about LGBTQ people in the US South, only 79 of them focused on people living with HIV/AIDS, and just 27 included facts about HIV prevention, treatment, and transmission.

GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis denounced the alarmingly low coverage of these issues.

“Local media have a tremendous responsibility to represent all in their communities, and that must include LGBTQ people,” Ellis said in a written statement. “As anti-LGBTQ legislation is on the rise and HIV continues to impact communities across the US South, GLAAD’s Local Media Accountability Index shows significant under-reporting of LGBTQ stories, a lack of local LGBTQ voices in stories and limited coverage of issues like HIV.”

Ellis added, “Fair and accurate news coverage can break HIV stigma and accelerate acceptance of LGBTQ lives. Our new report is a baseline count to partner with local Southern newsrooms to ensure more stories are told that include LGBTQ residents and organizations from across the region.”

In compiling the report, researchers analyzed and gathered data from 181 local news outlets before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. The report indicated that 39 of 181 outlets had “produced no or negligible LGBTQ content over the 18-month period,” and at least one outlet in every Southern state studied did not produce an LGBTQ story. According to the report, there were zero LGBTQ stories produced in Mississippi despite having a dozen news outlets in the state.

The report also highlighted a disturbing pattern of local news outlets misgendering and deadnaming trans people targeted by anti-LGBTQ violence. GLAAD also advised reporters to use the correct names and pronouns for transgender and non-binary sources.

Advocates warn that gaps in HIV/AIDS and LGBTQ-related news coverage fuels stigma.

Over the summer, HIV stigma was on full display when Dababy, a rapper hailing from Charlotte, North Carolina, spewed hateful and inaccurate remarks about people living with HIV. According to video footage of the incident, Dababy told fans, “If you didn’t show up today with HIV, AIDS, any of them deadly sexually transmitted diseases that’ll make you die in two or three weeks, put your cellphone light in the air.”

Last month, nine HIV/AIDS organizations provided the hip-hop artist with education about HIV treatment and prevention as well as the harmful effects of HIV/AIDS stigma. The rapper has since apologized for his discriminatory comments.

In the wake of the report, GLAAD urges organizations to bring attention to diverse LGBTQ narratives and emphasize that with treatment, people living with HIV/AIDS live long and healthy lives.

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