The government through the Ministry of Presidency and the Uganda Aids Commission, is set to hold the Philly Bongole Lutaaya Memorial Lecture on October 17, 2020.
This will be in commemoration of the legendary artist who was among the first people to openly declare that he had HIV and therefore pioneered the fight against the disease.
Philly Bongole Lutaaya died in 1989 (31 years ago) and has since been celebrated for his courage to withstand stigma by publicly declaring he was HIV positive.
Because of his outstanding bravery that saw him defy deep-rooted social norms that surrounded HIV then as a taboo subject, Lutaaya’s death is marked in Uganda every year.
Addressing the press at the Office of the President in Kampala, the Minister for the Presidency Esther Mbayo said When HIV/AIDS was first discovered in the 80’s, little was known about it and many people were dying as some thought it was as a result of bad omen and that the affected families had been bewitched.
Mbayo said that there was a lot of fear among the general population because HIV/AIDS was indeed a death sentence since medicines were not easily accessible to many people at the beginning.
“This is the time that Philly Bongole Lutaaya, one of Uganda’s greatest musicians, came out openly as having HIV/AIDS and started preaching about HIV and how each and every one should protect themselves,” Mbayo said.
She added: “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.”
According to Mbayo, Uganda has made significant progress in reducing new HIV infections, HIV prevalence and AIDS related deaths.
“In the late 80’s and early 90’s HIV prevalence ranging from 18% among the general population up to 30% in specific population groups. It is now at 6.8% for women and 4.2% for men; 2.8% among young women and 1.1% among young men,” she said.
There are approximately 1,400,000 people living with HIV and 1,200,000 of these are on treatment.
Mbayo added: “There were 53,000 new HIV infections and about 20,000AIDS related deaths in 2019 alone. 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.
According to the study, 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. Within the Key Population category, non-HIV related stigma and discrimination was almost six times more than the HIV related stigma compared to the general population yet their HIV prevalence is almost six times the national average in some instances.If they (people living with HIV Aids) do not access services because of stigma, they will not achieve viral suppression hence they will be a constant source of HIV infection.
Mbayo said, if the country is to end AIDS by 2030, there is a need to fight stigma and discrimination which this requires the efforts of e Government officials, religious leaders, private sector actors, cultural leaders, artists, media practitioners, teachers, parents as people living with HIV all have a role to play and need to be part of these efforts to end stigma and discrimination which is a critical barrier to ending AIDS as a public health threat.
The Minister also called upon Persons Living with HIV to confront, challenge or educate someone who is stigmatizing and/or discriminating them against a living with HIV, 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 among others.
She also thanked President Museveni for his support towards the fight against HIV Aids, the family of Philly Lutaaya and all stakeholders including the AIDS Development Partners who have continued to provide support to ensure that People Living with HIV/AIDS have access to testing and treatment services.