On the night of August 12th, 2017, we celebrated a hero. Dr. Peter Mugyenyi, a renowned researcher and campaigner of accessible and equitable medical care, was recognized with this year’s Hero Award for this year’s Young Achievers Awards.
This deserved recognition, was for his efforts in championing HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention in Uganda and beyond for over three decades, something that has made the country a global force to reckon with in this field.
In 2002, Dr. Mugyenyi led efforts that ordered for low cost HIV drugs from India amid strong opposition by global pharmaceuticals. He camped at the Entebbe International airport until the drugs were delivered and guarantees given for future shipments.
It is this commitment to reduce the HIV prevalence that convinced former U.S President George W. Bush that Mugyenyi was best placed as a consultant to help in the formulation of U.S President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program across Africa.
“I express my gratitude to the leadership of Reach A Hand Uganda (RAHU) and the panel of judges that nominated me. To me, this is a special award. I have won many other awards but this is the most special because it comes from the future of our country [ the young people ] and I have the honor to accept it with humility.” Dr. Mugyenyi concluded his speech at the 2017 Young Achievers Awards.
Like Dr. Peter Mugyenyi, The Young Achievers Awards since their inception, have recognized a number of individuals in different categories that have been at the center of HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention in Uganda. Here they are;
The Founder of The AIDS Support Organization (TASO) was recognized with the Young Achievers Lifetime Achievement award in 2010. TASO offers antiretroviral drugs, counseling and testing services, financial support and community awareness about HIV/AIDS in Uganda.
TASO was one of the very first community responses to AIDS in Africa and is today one of the leading examples in AIDS care and support and community education for prevention in resource-limited settings. As the founder, Ms. Kaleeba also worked as the Executive Director of TASO Uganda for eight years until 1995 when she retired, and was elected Patron of the TASO movement, a role she still plays. Ms. Kaleeba currently works as a programme development adviser, Africa, for the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), and has been based at their secretariat in Geneva since January 1996.
Besides the Young Achievers Award recognition, Kaleeba has been awarded several international awards in recognition of her national and global anti-AIDS efforts, including The Belgian International King Baudouin Prize for Development, awarded to TASO in 1995, and Doctor of Humane Letters, Honorius Causa, in 2000. She has served on various national and international bodies, including the World Health Organization Global Commission on HIV/AIDS, the Global AIDS Policy Coalition and the Uganda AIDS Commission. She has been a trustee of international NGO boards such as Marie Stopes International, Noah’s Ark (Sweden), and is currently Vice-Chair of ActionAid.
Barbara Kemigisa is an HIV Activist, Student Counselor at Makerere University Business School and Founder of Pill Power Uganda who received the Young Achievers Award for Leadership and Governance in 2013. Barbara, a person living with HIV, is a nationally celebrated HIV/AIDS champion who is at the centre of recognition for her tremendous work in fighting for rights of her peers that also live with HIV.
Barbra collects empty ARVs tins which she recycles into a number of items like flower vessels, chairs, beds among others. These collections have been bought by institutions for example Makerere University Business School (MUBS) to support Pill Power Uganda and motivate young people living with HIV to swallow their ARVs also save the environment.
The Team Leader & Founder of Reach A Hand Uganda which is now the organizer of the Young Achievers Awards, was recognized in 2011 were received the Young Achievers Award for Film & Photography. By then, Humphrey was a presenter of a popular TV Show- Youth Voice on NBS Television, a platform that he was using to create awareness about Sexual Reproductive Health and Rights of young people including HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention.
Humphrey comes from a background where he was raised by guardians who live openly with HIV . When he was growing up, he and his family were stigmatized because my peers, their parents found it unbearable to be in their company. According to him, he felt hurt but this just inspired him to make a difference. He became a reproductive health advocate in his secondary school, as he sensitized his peers at 13 years about HIV/AIDS and their reproductive health leading to the birth of Reach A Hand Uganda.
Under Humphrey’s leadership, Reach A Hand Uganda took over the Young Achievers Awards as its first national livelihoods project that rewards young people for their hard work, innovation and excellence in different fields like Farming and agro processing, innovations and ICT, Creative arts, social entrepreneurship, business and so much more.
Todate, HIV/AIDs remains a big challenge to Uganda. Even when the country has made tremendous efforts in fighting it, new innovative ways and strategies have to be introduced to counter its spread and that’s why, we have to celebrate those who are spearheading the fight.