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Leaders on the HIV/AIDS frontline. World Aids Day Supplement

By Vision Reporter

Added 5th December 2011 02:44 PM

Uganda’s record over the past decades as a global leader in the fight against HIV is undisputable.

Uganda’s record over the past decades as a global leader in the fight against HIV is undisputable.

By Elvis Basudde

Uganda’s record over the past decades as a global leader in the fight against HIV is undisputable. Uganda has come a long way in fighting this pandemic and behind this success are several individuals and organisations that have played unprecedented and selfless roles in different aspects against the disease. Last year, Parliament commended 22 individuals and organisations for their contribution to the fight HIV/AIDS. They include, President Yoweri Museveni and his wife Janet, the late Philly Lutaaya, Prof. Francis Miiro, Dr. Sam Okware, Beatrice Were and Noerine Kaleeba. Others are Dr. Mariam Duggan, Dr. Elly Katabira, Dr. Anthony Lwegaba, late Dr. Lucille Teasdale, late Dr. Piero Corti of Lacor Hospital in Gulu, Dr. Kihumuro Apuuli, late Bishop Misairi Kawuma and Major Rubaramira Ruranga.

Institutions that were hailed include the US government, Rakai Health Science Programme, Mildmay Centre, the AIDS Information Centre, Uganda Blood Transmission Services, the STD/AIDS Control Programme, the AIDS Commission and Kitovu Mobile Clinic.

President Museveni is the icon of the country’s
success against HIV


Those who know President Museveni’s involvement in the fight against HIV/AIDS describe him asthe icon of the country’s successstory. His bold fight against AIDS catapulted Uganda onto the international map and made him a senior global consultant on HIV/AIDS prevention. As a result of his efforts, AIDS prevalence reduced from above 30% in 1980 to 6.3%
in 2002.

This was mainly because of his high level of political leadership. At the time when most African countries were in denial about the epidemic, Uganda courageously chose to confront the situation. Museveni was hailed as the African leader most willing to speak openly about the disease.

“I approached it as a soldier. When there is a problem we just attack it directly,” he once said. It is said that the United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) based on Museveni’s model and called on world leaders to take the mantle. Museveni spoke openly about AIDS at every platform, increasing awareness and reducing stigma attached to the disease. Soon, NGOs, community-based organisations,

the private sector, religious leaders and a host of other players joined him in the fight against the disease. In 1986, Museveni set up the AIDS Control Programme in the health ministry. Soon, he realised that the consequences of the epidemic went far beyond mere health issues and subsequently, the Uganda AIDS Commission (UAC) was set up.

Dr. Noerine Kaleeba

Out of her own painful experience of losing her husband to AIDS, and even though she tested negative herself, Kaleeba came out with the truth about his illness and mobilised her colleagues who were affected and infected by HIV/AIDS for community action.

TASO was born in 1987, the first community response to AIDS in Africa. The organisation has gained national and international reputation as a successful model of care and support for people living and affected by HIV/AIDS. Based on the concept of “Positive living,” TASO has since reached a vast number of people in Uganda alone, and its programmes have been adopted in many other countries.

Kaleeba has moved on to make her contribution at the international level as a community mobiliser with UNAIDS. She has been awarded several international awards in recognition of her anti-AIDS effort. Her book, “We Miss You All-AIDS in the family,” gives a touching account on HIV and how she came to be on the global forefront on international AIDS awareness campaign.

The late Philly Bongole Lutaaya

A truly patriotic Ugandan, Lutaaya was a popular musician in 1989. At the peak of his music career, Lutaaya shocked the world when he publicly declared his HIV status. By doing so, he put a human face on AIDS, thus not only helping to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS, but also reducing the stigma and encouraging more people to declare their status. Lutaaya composed AIDS awareness songs and his album, “Alone,” became an AIDS anthem in Uganda.

The Philly Lutaaya Initiative was set up in 1991 in his memory to demonstrate how PHAs can combat HIV related stigma and denial.
 

 

 

 

 

  Dr. Cathy Watson

She is the voice of adolescents on HIV/AIDS and sexuality issues. In 1993, Cathy pioneered the idea of talking openly about sensitive topics regarding adolescence and HIV/AIDS.

Her idea was based on the notion that silence on sensitive topics only frustrates interventions against HIV/AIDS. Cathy then started the Straight Talk Foundation that published the Straight Talk paper which is distributed to schools and inserted in the New Vision.

The newspaper is designed to encourage open dialogue among adolescents and youth.

 

 

 

 

Prof. Nelson Sewankambo

Currently the dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Makerere University, Sewankambo was one of the first scientists in Africa to carry out research and write papers on HIV/AIDS.

He was instrumental in establishing the Mulago based Infectious Disease Institute which now treats over 14,000 AIDS patients free of charge and runs short courses for doctors from all over Africa
on how to treat the disease. Sewankambo also leads a team of scientists who have been carrying out research in Rakai since the 1990s to try and understand how the epidemic behaves.

He has also played key roles in research on AIDS prevention including evaluation of possible vaccines.

 

 

 

Prof. Nelson Sewankambo

Currently the dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Makerere University, Sewankambo was one of the first scientists in Africa to carry out research and write papers on HIV/AIDS.

He was instrumental in establishing the Mulago based Infectious Disease Institute which now treats over 14,000 AIDS patients free of charge and runs short courses for doctors from all over Africa
on how to treat the disease. Sewankambo also leads a team of scientists who have been carrying out research in Rakai since the 1990s to try and understand how the epidemic behaves.

He has also played key roles in research on AIDS prevention including evaluation of possible vaccines.

 

 

 

 

 

Rev. Gideon Byamugisha

Byamugisha earned national and international respect in 1995 when he became the first practicing priest in Africa to publicly declare his positive status.
 
Internationally, he is looked at as the leader in the field of faith-based approach to the HIV/AIDS fight.

He has consistently advocated for the use of condoms as a preventive measure a stand that some religious establishments oppose. Byamugisha, who tested HIV positive in 1998, castigates the church
for criticising condom use and stigmatising Christians affected by the disease by preaching that AIDS is a result of immoral behaviour.

 

 

 

Dr. Peter Mugyenyi

Under his leadership, the Joint Clinical Research Centre (JCRC) was the first institution to start distributing ARVs.

And even when they were too expensive for the ordinary person, Mugyenyi led a revolution that brought the prices down by importing generic ARVs.

Mugyenyi, who has been the JCRC director since 1992, has received different awards and has been at the forefront in planning, reviewing and executing policies on HIV/AIDS.

Parliament passed a motion recognising him for his exemplary work in fighting the scourge. He was honoured in Ireland for his outstanding work in fighting HIV/AIDS.

 

Leaders on the HIV/AIDS frontline. World Aids Day Supplement

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