If Uganda is to End AIDS by 2030, the population needs to fight stigma and discrimination and this requires a combined effort, the minister for Presidency Esther Mbayo has said.
Mbayo was addressing the press in Kampala on Wednesday morning, ahead of the Philly Bongoley Lutaaya day, slated for this Saturday 17th October 2020. A memorial lecture in honor of the late musician will beheld atOffice of the President, Conference Hall on the same day under the theme; “Access to HIV Services During COVID-19 Pandemic.”
The minister says stigma both internal and external, remains one of biggest challenges in the fight against the HIV/AIDS scourge. She notes that despite the work of Philly Lutaaya and other activists, stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV remains a significant barrier in Uganda’s fight against HIV/AIDS.
The recent Uganda Stigma Index study showed that stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV has reduced especially the external stigma (others thinking negatively about a person living with HIV) but internal stigma (oneself thinking negatively on how they are perceived by others because of their HIV status) remains persistent.
Hon Mbayo says that as result, many people with HIV delay to be tested, treated, fail to adhere to their medication and therefore cannot achieve viral suppression. The study also shows that Internal Stigma is especially high among the males compared to the females which explains the high AIDS related deaths among men compared to the females.
In honor of Lutaaya who was the first Ugandan to give face to HIV/AIDS in the country, the minister challenges people living positively with the virus to; Confront, challenge or educate someone who is stigmatizing and/or discriminating them against a PLHIV; Seek knowledge about organizations that he/she can go to for help if he/she experiences stigma or discrimination; Advocate for the rights of all people living with HIV and for the rights and support of marginalized groups of people affected or infected with HIV/AIDS;
They should also; Provide support to people living with HIV through emotional, physical and referral support; Raise awareness and knowledge of the public about AIDS, including human rights and HIV stigma and discrimination. Voluntarily disclose his/her HIV status to the spouse or partner so as to prevent infection; Demand for his/her rights and ensure that they are observed and not violated.
About Philly Bongoley Lutaaya and his fight against AIDS
He is a legendary man who was among the first people to openly declare that he had HIV and therefore pioneered the fight against HIV and AIDS in Uganda.
When HIV/AIDS was first discovered in the 80’s, little was known about it and many people were dying. Some thought it was as a result of bad omen and that the affected families had been bewitched. There was a lot of fear among the general population because HIV/AIDS was indeed a death sentence because medicines were not easily accessible to many people at the beginning.
This is the time that Philly Bongoley Lutaaya, one of Uganda’s greatest musicians, came out openly to announce that he was HIV positive and started preaching about HIV and how each and every one should protect themselves. This was the beginning of Uganda’s success story and Philly gave HIV/AIDS a face. He used music to convey a message of hope and to educate the population about HIV/AIDS and how to prevent it. He indeed pioneered the fight against stigma and discrimination of People Living with HIV/AIDS. Today, his song Alone and Frightened remains Uganda’s anthem for HIV/AIDS.