In 2017, an estimated 1.3 million people were said to be living with HIV in Uganda, Of these about 26,000 Ugandans died of Aids-related illnesses that year.
The epidemic is firmly established in the general population. As of 2017, the estimated HIV prevalence among adults (aged 15 to 49) stood at 5.9 per cent. Women are disproportionately affected, with 8.8 per cent of adult women living with HIV compared to 14.3 per cent of men.
Over the years, Uganda has for long basked in praise of the international community over its swift and progressive response to crippling HIV/Aids epidemic.
The country is regarded as one of the World’s earliest and most compelling national success stories due to its dramatic decline in prevalence.
But behind that success, there are some laborious people who have worked tooth and nail to ensure that the disease is kicked out of Uganda.
And as Uganda joins the rest of the universe to mark World Aids Day, on December 1, we bring you the brave people who have been at the forefront in championing the fight against the killer disease.
1.Philly Bongole Lutaaya
Born October 19, 1951, musician Philly Bongole Lutaaya was the first prominent Ugandan to give HIV/Aids a human face.
Before succumbing to the scourge, Lutaaya spent his remaining healthy time writing songs about his battle with Aids as well as touring churches and schools throughout Uganda to spread a message of prevention and hope.
He released his last album ‘Alone and Frightened’, in 1989. It included his famous song “Alone” which laboured to comfort HIV/AIDS patients as well as fight ignorance about the virus among people.
He died on December 15, 1989 at the age of 38.
2.President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni
Shortly after he came into office in 1986, President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni spearheaded a mass education campaign promoting a three-pronged Aids prevention message: Abstinence from sexual activity until marriage; Be Faithful; and Condoms as a last resort. The message became commonly known as ABC. This message also addressed the high rates of concurrency in Uganda, which refers to the widespread cultural practice of maintaining two or more sexual partners at a time.
Since then, the President has been spearheading several projects in fight against the killer disease.
In October, President Museveni also launched new Presidential Fast-Tracking Initiative on the Elimination of HIV/Aids that targets total elimination of the scourge from the Ugandan society by 2030.
3.Dr. Noerine Kaleeba
Dr. Noerine Kaleeba is a co-founder of the Aids activism group “The Aids Support Organisation” (TASO).
In June 1986, Dr Kaleeba received a call that her husband, Christopher, had become very sick while he was in England working on his masters in sociology and political science. He was diagnosed with Aids. He died in January 1987. This was the inspiration Dr Kaleeba needed to co-found TASO that same year. The goal of the organisation was to help provide support to people who have been diagnosed with Aids and their loved ones.The organisation provides families of those who are infected with information about the disease and ways to provide care, without becoming infected with the disease as well. The organisation also offers care, support and counseling, as well as to mobilize communities and neighborhood care for people with HIV/Aids and their families.
4.Major Rubaramira Ruranga
Major Rubaramira Ruranga, is the Executive Director of the National Guidance and Empowerment Network of people living with HIV/Aids in Uganda (NGEN).
Major Ruranga has lived with HIV/Aids for more than 30 years.
He says his admission of being HIV positive helps all people with Aids come to terms with the disease. He says it encourages getting treatment, living with a positive outlook, and fighting depression.
She discovered she was HIV-positive in 1991, a month after her husband died of Aids.
In 1993, Were co-founded the non-governmental organisation – the National Community of Women Living with HIV/Aids in Uganda (NACWOLA) to unite Ugandan women living with HIV and to improve the quality of their lives. She has served as national coordinator of NACWOLA, and as the Executive Coordinator of the International Community of Women Living with HIV/Aids, Uganda. She is National Coordinator for HIV/Aids for ActionAid Uganda.
6.Dr. Lydia Mungherera
Dr Lydia Mungherera is a medical doctor, living positively with HIV. She has been a peer educator since 1998, a member of the Ugandan National Network of people living with HIV and the International Community of Women Living with HIV/Aids since 2002. She is a treatment, gender and human rights activist for HIV positive women. She is passionate about the sexual and reproductive health rights of mothers living with HIV.
Dr Mungherera is a co-founder of the Athena Network and more recently co–founder of the Pan-African Coalition of Women Living with HIV/Aids. Dr Mungherera has been engaged in developing and revising HIV counseling, prevention and treatment guidelines with Unaids and WHO Geneva as civil society representative since 2003. She was a member of three by five evaluation team, and is currently a peer reviewer of 2013 ARV treatment guidelines. She is a member of the Men Engage Alliance, founding peer father groups to curb gender based violence amongst couples while promoting a family based approach to PMTCT.
7.Rev Gideon Byamugisha
The Anglican priest became the first religious leader in Africa to publicly announce that he was HIV positive in 1992.
Byamugisha co-founded the African Network of Religious Leaders Living with and Personally Affected HIV and Aids (ANERELA+) in February 2002, and in 2006 started a shelter for orphans of Aids victims. He lives with his wife and three HIV negative children.
In 2009, Byamugisha received the 26th Annual Niwano Peace Prize ‘in recognition of his work to uphold the dignity and human rights of people living with HIV/Aids’.
Ruth Simms is a co-founder of Mildmay Uganda, a hospital that looks after HIV/Aids patients. Since 1998 to date, more than 100,000 Aids patients have gone through Mildmay centre in Lweza along Entebbe Road.
Mildmay Uganda , formerly Mildmay International in Uganda, is a national Non-Government Organization established in Uganda in 1998 as a Centre of Excellence for provision of comprehensive HIV&AIDS prevention, care, treatment and training services.
Overtime, the NGO has evolved and diversified its services specializing in delivery of comprehensive healthcare including Treatment Services; Health Systems Strengthening; Other Complementary Social Services; Health Training and Education; and Research.
9.Aloysius Matovu Joy
On December 1, 2015 , the veteran actor declared to the whole world that he was HIV/Aids positive.
He now uses art and drama to convey an awareness message to the young generation about the dangers of the virus. On several occasions; Matovu has called upon fellow sick artistes to be open about their status and stop living in denial.
Matovu, one of Bakayimbira dramactors’ long-serving actors, said he has lived with the virus for more than 10 years.
10. Namusoke Asia Mbajja
Namusoke Asia Mbajja is a social justice fighter, the founder and Executive Director of People In Need Agency (PINA) an organisation established to provide hope and support to vulnerable children and youths living with HIV/Aids.
PINA which was fully registered in 2012 as NGO aims to improve the lives of young children born as well as living with the epidemic.
In 2014, PINA was named among the key organisations fighting stigma in Uganda at the International Aids day celebrations in Australia.
Mbajja’s dream to empower children living with HIV started when she was still a counsellor at the Joint Clinical Research Centre in 2002. While at the centre she met several children living with HIV/Aids and in 2004, she decided to quit her job to fully look after the needy children.
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