KAMPALA – TV Host Edwin Katamba popularly known as MC Kats has asked the public especially the media to avoid stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV/AIDS, saying that stigma alone can make someone fail to take drugs, “can make you sleep in the night and cry alone, can make you psychologically become 24-hours sick yet you can live life and be okay.”
Kats, who revealed he is HIV positive a couple of years ago was on Thursday speaking to the media at a function where Uganda AIDS commission in partnership with Uganda Network on Law, Ethics and HIV/AIDS (UGANET), National Forum of people living with HIV/AIDS (NAFOPHANU), International Community of Women Living with HIV Eastern Africa (ICWEA), Uganda Key Population Consortium (UKPC)and Friends of Canon Gideon Foundation (FOCAGIFO)with support from TASO Uganda launched Philly Lutaaya award — celebrating courage, fierce fight against stigma and exceptional leadership.
The awards launched at Hotel Africana under the theme “Ending HIV Stigma, Promoting Resilient Communities”, call upon communities of people leaving with HIV, leaders in the struggle to nominate themselves or any other person that has walked in Philly Lutaaya’s footsteps.
Mc Kats said that by the time Philly Lutaaya said was sick, he was young, and “I felt like that’s magic, that can’t happen to me, how? when? where?”
He, however, revealed that due to stigma and discrimination, he almost took off his own life.
“I don’t know if you saw that video when I was in London. I wanted to commit suicide and most people never knew where this was coming from. I’ve lived with this disease, I’ve heard people talk, backbite me. So when I was in London I was like I think I’ve seen it all, after all, I’m gonna die any time soon but somehow somewhere, I kept thinking of my kids,” Kats narrated his touching story.
“I’ve had front page by media that Kats infects Fille [Mutoni] with HIV. You don’t know what her family went through, what her kids went through, what her parents said. I’ve had presenters say it live on TV and I was talking to UGANET like we should sue these people but again I was like when you sue it’s going to look like it’s selfish.
“I let it go in a way that someone out there say this boy has been pushed to the wall but he’s still standing. God never puts you in a situation where he doesn’t know the solution,” he said.
UGANET Executive Director Ms. Dorah Kiconco Musinguzi said Lutaaya was a voice who put a face to the pandemic.
“He was a legend, he was an example, he led us into a response that mobilized action to fight against stigma,” she said, adding that, “Stigma is still real today. So by us coming together as a community, we are coming to recognize those that may not be with us but we are also coming to put in the effort and the strength to fight harder and achieve it. So that’s why we have called a process to recognize the effort.”
Ms. Lilian Mworekwa from the International Community of Women living with HIV in Eastern Africa wondered that it is several years now but HIV victims are still facing stigma and discrimination when even the situation has changed.
“So the question that keeps coming to my mind is how did the family of Lutaaya feel, how it was treated to the extent that even when we know we are saying stigma has reduced, when we know that we are saying there’s treatment, care, and support, we are still experiencing stigma and discrimination.”
“So when I think about Philly Lutaya, I think about the family, the children because many times when we open up about our status, we rarely remember what our children go through. Sometimes I listen to my children and what they tell me they go through at school I imagine was worse for the family of Philly Lutaaya. This is a critical moment for us as a community to reclaim the space and put Philly Lutaya where he deserves to be.”
Every year, the Uganda AIDS Commission under the Office of the President mobilizes stakeholders countrywide to commemorate the PHILLY LUTAAYA day. This year Philly Lutaaya Memorial lecture focuses on Ending HN Stigma, Promoting Resilient Communities. As such, the CSOs remember and recognize all those who pioneered to give AIDS a human face amidst stigma, discrimination, denial and ignorance but also recognize those who are upcoming plus the institutions that continue to lead in HIV-related service delivery.
Celebrating leadership also comes at a time when Uganda has just launched a policy guideline on ending HIV stigma – a policy that seeks to provide an enabling environment for the elimination of all forms of HIV and AIDS-related stigma and discrimination in Uganda.
“It is as such that we want to recognize all those [at an individual and institutional level] that have exceptionally walked the footsteps of Philly Lutaaya in challenging stigma and discrimination but also institutions that continue to provide services to people living with HIV,” said the CSOs.
“We have launched the Philly Lutaaya website www.phillvlutaayaawards.org — which is a platform where the nominations and voting will be taking place. The nominations will follow a series of events as in the road map attached and the awards in three categories as follows;
- Philly Lutaaya ‘Personality of the year
- Upcoming Philly Lutaaya personalities
- Institutions challenging stigma
The CSOs say that Lutaya put a human face to HIV amidst stigma and discrimination and while he died 32 years ago after losing the battle against HIV, his legacy is unquestionable in the fight that the nation still grapples with today.
“Many leaders have walked this journey, put a face of resilience, fiercely continued to fight stigma and discrimination. We, therefore, want to recognize their leadership, celebrate those coming up in Philly Lutaaya’s footsteps.”