The Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV/AIDS (UNYPA) crowned Oscar Otim and Aol Gladys as the 2020/21 Mr. and Miss Y+ as the new top ambassadors against HIV/AIDS stigma and discrimination in Uganda at Kampala Serena Hotel and the narrative for young people living with HIV/AIDS continues to be changed!!
These were chosen after over two months of activity starting with the regional auditions that were carried out through the month of November traversing four regions of the country (Central, Eastern, Northern, and Western).This was followed by a boot camp that has just been recently concluded at Banana Village in Entebbe which saw over 18 young people from across the country being trained and mentored to be ambassadors of change against HIV/AIDS related stigma and discrimination.
“We are very grateful to all our sponsors who have supported us through this difficult period of Coronavirus. Without them, the Y+ Beauty pageant wouldn’t have taken place this year. We are also very happy to add this to one of our achievements this year,” Olgah Namukuza, the Head of Programs at UNYPA said.
The grand finale was graced with the presence of Ambassador Natalie Brown who was making her first public appearance after being named Ambassador of the USA to Uganda, and other dignitaries from the UN fraternity like Dr. Maxime Houinato the country representative UN Women, Country Director CDC, Dr. Lisa Nelson and CCM chair Professor Dr. Maggie Kigozi, among others.
Speaking to participants, our team leader Nicholas Niwagaba thanked everyone for sparing their time to show up for the event, he urged young people to be more versatile and to always look out for ways to fight HIV/AIDS related stigma and discrimination.
“I am very grateful for what is happening today. I thank you all for deciding to leave your Friday business and be here with us,” he said. “In 2014 we only had 10 contestants, seven years down the road, we have over 1051 ambassadors around the country,” Nicholas added.
The Team Leader Nicholas Niwagaba also reiterated that the Y+ beauty pageant has supported in the fight against HIV/AIDS related stigma and discrimination as well as having many young people adhere to their drugs.
The Y+ beauty pageant isn’t about beauty or looks but about capability. The capability to change the lives of others. Our new ambassadors are a formidable force against HIV/AIDS related stigma and discrimination.
The Y+ Beauty Pageant is a novel concept that was developed to celebrate beauty with zero stigma and zero discrimination together with having zero new infections and having zero AIDS related deaths. The entertainment calendar has several beauty pageants and, one of which is the Y+ Beauty Pageant that has been on for the last seven years. The beauty pageant has, over the years, served as a platform to young men and women (16 to 25 years) living with HIV to become voices to the voiceless, pillars of boldness and strength to those still afraid of HIV testing, these young people also share testimonies of assurance that acquiring HIV is not the end of life. Which is not that easy.
UNYPA organizes the Y+ beauty pageant for YPLHIV in order to re-echo their voices, co- create to build a strong, energetic, creative, and productive generation able to address the multiple dimensions in which stigma and discrimination affect young peoples through raising awareness and empowering Y+ Ambassadors both male & female as champions to challenge HIV related stigma, discrimination & gender based violence within their communities.
The Y-Plus pageant model in Uganda is now a nationally and international recognized and awarded model for a successful fight against HIV related stigma and discrimination, increasing awareness on HIV prevention but of more critical concern still largely remains unaddressed the problem of stigma and discrimination associated with HIV/AIDS and society’s attitude to it is still a big concern