Imagine getting a phone call that said you or your child were HIV+. How would you feel? Probably scared, nervous, hopeless…
The reality is, as of 2013, 35 million people were living with HIV worldwide. And that same year, there were 1.5 million HIV-related fatalities. To break it down even further, in Uganda as of 2011, a staggering 7.2 per cent of its population is living with HIV, which amounts to about 1.4 million people. Of those 1.4 million, 190,000 are children. That same year, 62,000 Ugandans died from AIDS-related illness, and 1.1 million children had been left orphaned.
And we know, these statistics are grim. They’re the kind of stats you don’t want to consider, but it’s time we did.
To help spread the message, the Uganda National Association of Young People Living with HIV/AIDS (UNYPA) hosted its second-annual Mr. and Miss Y+ beauty pageant. The event was created to bolster the spirits of youth living with HIV in Uganda, but it also aims to end the stigma associated with the virus.
The winners this year, photographed above, are Silus Lubangakere, a 20-year-old taking developmental studies at Gulu University, and Robina Babirye, a 22-year-old student at Kyambogo University who is interested in community-based rehabilitation.
In their roles as Mr. and Miss Y+, the two will travel the country to talk about HIV, and why there is hope if you are living with it. Babirye tells UGO News that she plans to travel to “hard to reach places,” where she intends to organize groups of young people like her to empower and educate, in an effort to put an end to the stigma and discrimination.
This is probably the most beautiful thing to ever come out of a beauty pageant. No, it is. It is definitely the most beautiful thing.