On November 30th, 2021, the Uganda AIDS Commission together with Uganda Network on Law, Ethics & HIV/AIDS (UNAGET) and other Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) hosted the 2021 Philly Lutaaya Awards at Onomo Hotel in Kampala.
Philly Lutaaya was a Ugandan musician and is remembered as the first prominent Ugandan to give a human face to HIV/AIDS and became a national hero because he was the first Ugandan to declare that he was HIV positive in 1988. Despite the stigma then, Lutaaya spent his remaining time writing songs about his battle with AIDS, releasing his last album Alone and Frightened.
The categories included the Philly Lutaaya Personality of the Year, Upcoming Philly Lutaaya Personalities, and Institutions Challenging Stigma. The awards are meant to highlight people who over the years have been fighting to see the end of HIV stigma and related discrimination.
Prof. Rev. Canon Gideon Baguma Byamugisha who has been instrumental in the fight against HIV in over 60 countries and is one of the few men of the cloak in the world to come out and declare their HIV positive status won the Personality of the Year 2021.
The three Upcoming Philly Lutaaya Personalities included Martha Clara Nakato with Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV (UNYPA), a young lady living with HIV who has been instrumental in getting young people onboard in the fight against HIV stigma.
The other two are James Wataka Wamalukuh, founder Mbale Forum of People Living with HIV who has been vey instrumental in fighting HIV stigma in the Mbale region and Rose Atibuni, Chairperson, National Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS (NACWOLA), who was influential in northern region when it comes to fighting HIV stigma and distribution of ARVs there.
The Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV (UNYPA) emerged as the Institute Challenging Stigma 2021. These young people have demonstrated a zeal to see to the end of HIV stigma that is reminded everyone of Philly Lutaaya himself.
Among the guests were Maj. Rubaramira Ruranga, Lillian Mworeko, Dora Kiconco, Moses Nsubuga, Milly Katana, Jane Mwirumubi, Dr. Lydia, Richard Lusimbo, Flavia Kyomukama among others who shared a moment of the journey in the fight against HIV stigma and living positively.
From HIV treatment literacy, to checking up on PLHIV around Uganda, the group has been working together for decades long.
“If we work together, we have seen that a lot can be achieved. The fight against HIV stigma needs an all-hands-on deck approach,” said Lillian Mworeko who works with the International Community of Women Living with HIV in Eastern Africa (ICWEA).
“We are celebrating the Philly Lutaaya champions because of how much they have been doing when it comes to fighting HIV stigma. It is their sacrifice and bravery that we celebrate,” she said.
Nourine Kaleeba the founder of The Aids Support Organisation, TASO, said that “It is never too late to recognize our champions. Today, we want to acknowledge the Philly Lutaaya champions’ impact in the fight against HIV stigma.”
“We need to ignite the conversation on HIV. We need to bring everyone onboard in the fight against HIV stigma and related discrimination,” she added.
Every Year, Uganda AIDS Commissions (UAC) under the office of the president mobilises stakeholder’s country wide to commemorate Philly Lutaaya day. This year’s theme focused on Ending HIV Stigma, Promoting Resilient Communities. As the awards were organized to recognize those who are fighting the to end HIV-related stigma relentlessly.
Speaking at the awards, Dora K. Musinguzi, the UGANET Executive Director said, celebrating leadership comes at a time when Uganda has just launched a policy guideline on ending HIV stigma. The policy seeks to provide an enabling environment for the elimination of all forms of HIV and Aids related stigma and discrimination in Uganda.
Show host Edwin Katamba aka MC Kats, who was also awarded by the king of Toro, King Oyo Nyimba Iguru at the Philly Lutaaya Memorial Lecture that was hosted by the Uganda Aids Commission shared saying that it has been an incredible new journey since he came out to the public about his HIV status.
“I am glad that I came out. Now, I get to interact with people like you who understand what this is like and are helping others to live healthy positive lives. I pledge that I will do everything in my power to keep the torch burning.” MC Kats affirmed.