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LGBTQI advocate Richard Lusimbo honored for fighting HIV stigma

LGBTQI advocate Richard Lusimbo is one of six Ugandans recognized by the International Community of Women Living with HIV / Eastern Africa (ICWEA) for their outstanding role in fighting HIV-related stigma.

From the African Human Rights Media Network

Richard Lusimbo

Richard Lusimbo

By Joto la Jiwe

The recognition for Lusimbo came during a recent national dialogue in Kampala focused on elimination of HIV-related stigma and discrimination.

The LGBTQI community in particular continues to be subjected to stigma and discrimination when it comes to accessing HIV-related services. Throughout his career, Lusimbo has been at the forefront of fighting stigma and discrimination against LGBTQI people.

While handing an award to Lusimbo, ICWEA Executive Director Lillian Mworeko said:

“If you want to engage the LGBTQI community, there is nobody going to take you there but him — Richard Lusimbo. He made sure that stigma and discrimination have no place in Uganda.”

She stressed that in a country where it is not safe for LGBTQI people to say who they are, HIV-related stigma and discrimination are the real killer because, for many, access to much-needed care and treatment is denied.

Mworeko blames Uganda’s discriminatory laws and policies for the high stigma and discrimination rates in the country, saying that it time to adapt, adopt and apply global guidelines and protocols.

The 2016 United Nations Political Declaration on Ending AIDS recognized the HIV epidemic as a human rights challenge. It expressed grave concern about continued stigma and discrimination, stating that restrictive legal and policy frameworks continue to discourage people from accessing HIV services. Member states committed to:

  • Promoting non-discriminatory access to health care, employment, education and social services;
  • Eliminating HIV-related stigma and discrimination by 2020;
  • Eliminating gender inequalities and ending all forms of violence and discrimination against women and girls;
  • Reviewing and reforming laws that reinforce stigma and discrimination, including age of consent, HIV non-disclosure, exposure and transmission, travel restrictions and mandatory testing; and
  • Empowering people living with, at risk of or affected by HIV, to know their rights and access justice and legal services.

At an earlier gathering, members of Ugandan key populations most at risk of HIV posed for this photo.

In his award acceptance remarks, Lusimbo said is high time Uganda honoured its international commitments of leaving none behind.

“We belong to different communities but the issues we face are the same. What matters is that we are human beings”, he said.

Other honorees in addition to Lusimbo were Canon Gideon Byamugisha, Kuraish Mubiru, Awino Julie and Betty Kwagala. All these people have suffered from HIV-related stigma and discrimination and have consistently and unapologetically campaigned against it.

Joto La Jiwe, the author of this article, is a Ugandan correspondent for the African Human Rights Media Network and a member of the Uganda Health and Science Press Association. He writes under a pseudonym