By Elvis Basudde
The beauty pageant auditions for young people living with HIV started Monday in Fort portal Town.
The young positive beauty pageant is an annual event developed to celebrate beauty with Zero Discrimination, and aimed at fighting stigma and discrimination against young people affected and living with HIV and AIDS.
Auditions will continue in Kampala on 23, in Jinja at AIC on 30 August and in Gulu at AIC on 6 September. There will be a boot camp in Kalangala at Pearl Gardens from September 13 to September 16.
The D-DAY comes on September 18, when finalists will gyrate their way down the catwalks at the Golf Course Hotel as a way of enhancing advocacy for pragmatic action in the fight against the scourge.
19-year- old Elizabeth Nabukenya, a first year student of Cosmetology at Mega School of Beauty in Munyonyo, says she is extremely excited to be a contestant in this beauty pageant as her action will mitigate the impact of HIV/AIDS.
“We people living with HIV have to de-stigmatize the community about HIV/AIDS. The struggle against HIV/AIDS will never succeed without addressing stigma. I have personally suffered stigma and I know it can be more lethal than the HIV virus,” says Nabukemya.
The Y+ beauty pageant is comprised of young men and women between the ages of 16 – 25 that will be held regionally getting final contestants in auditions that will be got from the different regions in Uganda.
Botswana, one of the countries in sub-Sahara Africa with the highest HIV/AIDS prevalence rate was the first to have organized a beauty pageant for HIV positive contestants in 2000. It has since organized over 20 such beauty contests to help reduce the HIV stigma.
Some of the finalists during last year's Miss Y+ ( YOUNG POSITIVE) held at Golf Course hotel. L-R: Josephine Awari and Angel Kyogabirwe.
Uganda will be the second African country to organize such a beauty contest, organized by the Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV&AIDS (UNYPA), an HIV service organization established in 2003 to provide leadership and coordinate the greater and meaningful involvement and participation of Young People Living with HIV in Uganda.
The contest, dubbed “The Y+ Beauty pageant,” will feature casual wear, traditional wear, evening wear, and creative wear and office models.
The Y+ Beauty pageant is a novel concept that was developed to celebrate beauty with Zero stigma and zero Discrimination together with having zero new infections and having zero AIDS related deaths, according to Jacquelyne Alesi, executive director, UNYPA.
“The essence of this pioneering event is to fight stigma and discrimination among young people who are infected with the HIV virus. We want to encourage young Ugandans living with HIV to learn how to live positively, and to help them avoid sleepless nights and worries about their HIV status,” says Alesi.
She says they want to supplement government efforts aimed at preventing the spread of HIV as well as sensitise the public about the AIDS scourge. “The number of young people newly infected with the virus was worrying despite the Government’s awareness campaigns and achievements,” she says.
She adds, “By organizing this pageant we are trying to restore the lost hope of our peers who think that it is the end of them because they are infected. This will also have a big impact on the public due to awareness of HIV/AIDS.”
Alesi says all proceeds raised will go towards the purchasing of a piece of land where construction of the Y+ rehabilitation home will be. This rehabilitation home will be a platform and a- one- stop center for the young people Living with HIV and those affected by it to be empowered with life skills and sustainable agriculture.
Mr.and Miss Y+ together with other awarded Y + winners will be role models and will spear head among the other champions in the fight against the spread of HIV and the fight against new HIV infections in all regions with support from the coalition members and other development partners.
Draecabo Charles, National Professional Officer, HIVAIDS-UNESCO, describes the beauty pageant for young people living with HIV/AIDS as an empowerment process since it will help them overcome stigma and living in denial.
And as for Dr. Cordelia Katureebe, national coordinator peadiatric and Adolescent care and treatment AIDS Control Program- MOH, the Y+ Beauty pageant is a timely event since it will provide both education and entertainment.
“We are combining two things; education and amusement. These are the people with knowledge on HIV/AIDS and they have a story to tell every single day of their lives since they go through it and live with it every day. They want to spread the information, to talk about their rights,” she says.
She adds, “But at the same time being a beauty pageant is attracting. These young people are fighting the disease by making themselves to be part of the solution, and putting themselves at the center of the fight.”
Stella Kentusi, executive director, the National Forum of People Living with HIV/AIDS Networks in Uganda (NAFOPHANU), an umbrella organization in Uganda and to which UNYPA is a member with a membership base of 50,000 young people living with HIV&AIDS in the country, had this to say.
“The young people have shown that being HIV positive is not a death sentence but an opportunity to grow, become healthy and productive. I congratulate them because they have demystified HIV and subsequently fought against stigma which has unfortunately become a barrier to positive living.”
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Uganda holds beauty pageant for young people with HIV