Ugandan youths hold Mr. and Ms Y+ beauty pageant to fight against HIV/AIDS and its stigma. An estimated 1.5 million people in the country live with HIV, half of all new infections are recorded among people under 25.
In Uganda's capital Kampala, teenagers living with HIV virus on Friday (18.09.2015) gathered around catwalks in a music-filled hall to witness the crowning of Miss and Mister Y+ or "Youth Positive".
The beauty Pageant was organized to fight stigma and give hope to young people living with the virus. Organizers travelled around the country to encourage young people with HIV to take part in the event. It was open to candidates - age between 16 and 25. The show is now in its second year.
After a night of catwalks, design exhibitions and rounds of question and answer, two winners were chosen. Silas Lubangakere and Robina Babirye were crowned as the winners. They will go around the country conveying a message of hope and encourage more youths to take the HIV test and find out about their status.
Fighting stigma and discrimination
"I feel so great and I'm really excited about this," Lubangakere said, "because it has been a very long journey for me to reach this stage." Lubangakere sees it as a chance for him to go out and educate more youths.
"I know this is not the end, this is just the beginning of fighting to end stigma and discrimination among youths living with HIV and AIDS," he added. When he was crowned as Mr. Y+, the 21-year-old fell on his knees out of joy.
Robina Babirye, 22, was crowned Ms. Y+. She told DW her aim is to go to "hard to reach areas", organize groups of young people living with HIV and empower them to stand out against stigma and discrimination. Babirye, who was born with HIV, said the virus was still rampant and has to be addressed appropriately.
The beauty contest was organized by Uganda National Association of Young People Living with HIV/AIDS (UNYPA). Its executive director, Jackie Alesi, told DW that it is highly possible that new infections are being driven by people who are not aware of their status. "The infections are going high," Alesi said, "because people have failed to disclose their status."
Alesi added that people living with the virus are afraid of disclosing their status as a result of the stigma attached. She said the beauty contest was aimed at showcasing to those people that one does not need be ashamed of being HIV positive.
"The winners of the pageantry can help them remain positive," she said.