December,is a Philly Bongoley Lutaaya month, atleast musically to some of us, right about now radio stations will start playing his Christmas songs, katujaguze,zukuka and Gloria these songs are supposed to prepare our minds for Christmas. Lutaaya is our Ugandan Boney M
Lutaaya came out on April 13th,1989 after returning from Sweden,he held a presser at Sheraton hotel and told the country that he was suffering from HIV/Aids. The next day, the New Vision,a State Owned Newspaper ran an Editorial applauding his efforts. Coming out at that time was not easy so Philly demystified the stigma of living with HIV/ Aids. HIV/Aids in Luganda is known as mukenenya or bluntly as siriimu which must be a derivative of the word,slim because in the late 80s, whoever was infected was literally slim.
I never knew the global impact of Philly Lutaaya till 2013, when I traveled for an international Moot competition while in Lawschool. I met a friend, Musu Malima Ceesay who is now a lecturer at the University of Gambia. Later, when she found out that I was from Uganda, she asked me about Philly Lutaaya and told me an interesting story. The song, Alone and Frightened was so popular in the Gambia that it was translated in the local language, and all school going children knew it and would sing it like the national anthem after which his story would be told. The song brings tears to all those that lost their loved ones to the scourge. My respect for the icon grew, this was a prophet being celebrated away from home. We honor useless people like Prince Charles and name roads after them but I don’t know of Lutaaya Avenue in Kampala. The Uganda Aids Commission holds Annual Memorial lectures but little is known about the hero in the fight against AIDS.
Why was he alone and frightened? The first person reported to die due to HIV Aids was in Missouri in 1969 and when a Pandemic starts,it has started, soon it would hit Uganda in the late 80’s . At the time, people didn’t understand Aids,they thought it was witchcraft and ostracized the patients. It’s possible that he likely faced discrimination and was trying to speak out his mind.
Lutaaya has been lauded for being strong and brave for declaring his HIV status at the time people were not talking about the disease. He became the face of a disease many had discarded as a myth and on another day, witchcraft.
His impact saw many more people come out to declare their HIV status, many that ended up becoming activists such as artistes Livingstone Kasozi, Prince Juuko Mawanda and Joy Aloysius Matovu, among others. There have been campaigns to inculcate young people living with HIV Aids to lead productive lives.
Credit must be given to the current president, Tibuhaburwa Museveni for leadership in the efforts against HIV/Aids. He was one of the first leaders to acknowledge that indeed HIV/ Aids was a scourge and educated the countrymen on the disease, the transmission and how it can be avoided. That helped because as the head of state he didn’t shy away from the Pandemic at hand. Providing able leadership in the face of a Pandemic isn’t easy.
The theme this year is about ending inequalities and ending Aids. This is a year of double Pandemics, HIV/Aids and COVID-19, it is through ending the existing inequalities that the existing pandemics can be handled. What is being encouraged now is for the HIV Aids positive people to adhere to the Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) thereby suppressingthe viral load and positive living.
We cannot talk about the World Aids Day without talking about Philly Lutaaya. On August 15th,1989 he succumbed to HIV/Aids at Nsambya Hospital. Lutaaya is a true icon in the fight against HIV Aids. We have to be mindful of the new infections everyday because these pandemics are here with us, Stay safe and Stay well. So let’s combine the SOP’s and avoid the two Pandemics, let’s imagine it’s a total lockdown Avoid crowds, please stay home (Avoid multiple sexual partners, please stay faithful to your partner) Wear your mask at all times when in Public and wear it well, Only legends will copy. We can avoid the double Pandemics by following the SOP’s.