Uganda will on Saturday October 2020 commemorate the Philly Bongoley Lutaaya day, remembering his contributions to the fight against HIV/AIDS scourge.
According to Hon Esther Mbayo the ministry for Presidency, the annual Philly Bongoley Lutaaya Memorial Lecture will be held this Saturday at Office of the President, Conference Hall under the theme; “Access to HIV Services During COVID-19 Pandemic.”
Hon Mbayo was speaking at a press conference in Kampala, when she revealed that Lutaaya was among the first people to openly declare that he had HIV and therefore pioneered the fight against HIV and AIDS.
“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” the minister said.
The minister noted that it was at this time that one of Uganda’s greatest singers of all time, came out openly as having HIV/AIDS and started preaching about the disease and how each and every one should protect themselves.
She added that this, this was the beginning of Uganda’s success story and Philly gave HIV/AIDS a face using music to convey a message of hope and to educate the population about HIV/AIDS and how to prevent it. Today, his song Alone and Frightened remains Uganda’s anthem for HIV/AIDS.
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 stretched from 18% among the general population up to 30% in specific population groups. Prevalence is currently at 6.8% for women and 4.2% for men; 2.8% among young women and 1.1% among young men.
There are approximately 1,400,000 people living with HIV and 1,200,000 of these are on treatment. There were 53,000 new HIV infections and about 20,000 AIDS related deaths in 2019 alone.
According to Hon Mbayo, 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.
She noted that many people suffer internal stigma (oneself thinking negatively on how they are perceived by others because of their HIV status) and As a result, many people with HIV delay to be tested, treated, fail to adhere to their medication and therefore cannot achieve viral suppression. 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.