Winifred Ikilai, 29, a Ugandan HIV research activist advancing global efforts to end HIV/Aids, has won the Omololu Falobi Award for her excellence in HIV/Aids prevention research community advocacy.
The award is in honour of Omololu Falobi, a Nigerian journalist and HIV/Aids activist who passed on in 2006. She was honoured on February 4 last week via Zoom at the culmination of a weeklong HIV/Aids Research for Prevention (HIVR4P) virtual conference.
The conference was organized by International Aids Society (IAS) and it is the only global scientific conference dedicated exclusively to biomedical HIV/Aids prevention research.
The award pays tribute to the life and work of the noted HIV/Aids prevention advocate, and also highlights the essential role of community advocacy in HIV/Aids prevention research.
It recognizes the courageous and inspiring young activists and community engagement workers who have ensured that biomedical HIV/Aids and related research continued safely despite the Covid-19 pandemic.
“The Covid-19 pandemic greatly affected HIV service delivery including prevention, care, treatment and mostly research. However, communities and networks of People Living with HIV/Aids (PLHIV) worked tirelessly to ensure there is uninterrupted access to treat-ment and care for PLHIV during the lockdown,” Ikilai said in her acceptance speech.
Ikilai, who works with National Forum of People Living with HIV/AIDS Networks in Uganda (NAFOPHANU), scooped the award due to her bold work during Covid-19 pandemic lockdown that saved many lives of PLHIV.
“As a young advocate, I couldn’t sit and watch PLHIV dying due to lack of drugs. I started advocating access for drugs. I worked with other advocates on social media to amplify our voices and demand for supportive mechanisms for PLHIV to access drugs and food, at their homes during lockdown,” she said.
Ikilai (pictured) also linked many people who were stranded, to hospitals like Mild May Uganda, Uganda Cares and TASO to access their drugs.
“I made a list of contacts of health service providers and circulated it on social media platforms. Working with other advocates, we engaged the Ministry of Health, PEPFAR, UNAIDs and Global Fund to lobby drugs and foods for PLHIV,” She says.
Ikilai helped to develop the “Beyond My Pill Campaign” to advocate for effective implementation of test and treat policy. In this campaign, she advocated that, beyond just getting people tested and enrolls them on HIV/Aids treatment, they must ensure that peopleare mentally stable and prepared enough to take their drugs for life.
Ikilai, who holds a bachelor’s degree in Development Studies and is currently pursuing master’s degree in Public Health at Makerere University College of Health Sciences, developed creative messages and used multiple mediums and online platforms to engage civil society in Uganda into important conversations about the dapivirine vaginal ring, HIV vaccines, injectable PrEP and the urgent need to maintain a focus on HIV prevention.
“The award has and a cash prize of $500 (Shs 1.8m). I will use the money to continue with my HIV advocacy work,” she said.
Meanwhile, another Ugandan Shakirah Namwanje, from the Uganda Network of AIDS Service Organizations finished first runner-up while Nigerian Haruna Aaron Sunday of the African Network of Adolescents and Young Persons Development in Nigeria was the second runner-up.
WHY OMOLOLU AWARD?
It was named The Omololu award to pay tribute to the life and work of Omololu Falobi, who was a Nigerian journalist and a leading HIV/Aids activist but died in a tragic accident 12 years ago in Nigeria.
He developed and led campaigns related to prevention, treatment and research on HIV/Aids. He won multiple awards internationally and established the Journalists Against AIDS in Nigeria (JAAIDS) and co-founded the Nigerian HIV Vaccine and Microbicide Advocacy Group (NHVMAG).