Executive Director & Co-Founder, WHIV
While sitting in a rickshaw in Cambodia, MarkAlain Dery listened to a podcast news story about low power FM (LPFM) radio stations. Designed to help communities develop new voices for the radio, these stations promote educational or public safety concerns. Although the infectious diseases physician was busy with medical work in Cambodia, Dery immediately thought of the ways such a station could benefit New Orleans. After learning New Orleans was slated to get four of these stations, Dery claimed 102.3 FM when he returned home. With support from his wife and Co-Founder, Liana Elliott (also pictured above), WHIV was launched.
Drawing on Dery’s background as an HIV doctor, the radio station WHIV was created to get the word out about health and human justice issues that most affect people in New Orleans. Even the station’s call letters were chosen with deliberation.
“How do you destigmatize a stigma? Remove the power out of the word,” says Dery. Repetition is one effective way to do that. After hearing the letters WHIV spoken over and over, the last three letters lose some of their stigma.
Although it may feel like HIV is a distant issue, Dery is quick to note that New Orleans has the second-highest rate of HIV infection of any U.S. city, surpassed only by Miami. But in part because HIV still faces such stigma, the transmission rates in the city are much higher than necessary. As Dery explains, even though there isn’t a cure or vaccine available, it’s possible to bring the HIV transmission to zero if a community works together. Educating more New Orleanians about HIV infection is a crucial goal of WHIV.
In addition to the focus on HIV awareness, WHIV also provides programming dedicated to human rights and social justice issues. Even the music the station plays is dedicated to human rights. Although the 100-watt station’s FM broadcast is just powerful enough to cover the greater New Orleans area, the station also streams to listeners all over the world. In fact, people in around 90 different countries listen to the stream on a regular basis. Overall, WHIV is dedicated to creating a more informed, peaceful and healthy listenership in New Orleans and the world over.