Fighting HIV-from ordinary to extraordinary

Oct. 23, 2018
2017 CARES award winner, Evah Namakula.

A 28-year-old African community youth worker, Evah Namakula, has won the first, global CARES HIV/AIDS award, designed to recognize ordinary people who have shown care, dedication, and commitment in their communities as part of the fight against the disease.

The Beckman Coulter Life Sciences CARES award celebrates the vision and endeavor of an individual whose humanitarian work, combined with their own commitment, has significantly improved the lives of local people impacted by AIDS. The goal of the award is to recognize dynamic individuals whose commitment and work serve as inspiration for the community.

In its first year, the CARES award (2017) focused on the dedication of ordinary people in Africa—one of the areas in the world most affected by HIV/AIDS. The award has two categories of winners (1) an individual, Namakula, and (2) an organization, the Hillcrest AIDS Centre Trust (HACT). HACT is a South African charity that cares for some of the poorest and most disadvantaged people in Africa.

An independent judging panel described Namakula’s achievements as “remarkable” in her local Ugandan community to dispel the stigma of HIV/AIDs. She is also global youth ambassador for Reach Out Integrity Africa, where she helps to promote health and sexual responsibility to young people. Namakula has recently founded her own charity, IGNITE, to carry her work forward.

Namakula is part of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) set up by former U.S. President Barak Obama to empower leadership skills in African youth. As a YALI volunteer, she has been working as a leadership mentor in local communities and schools, helping to develop public speaking skills.

Inspired as a child by the determination of her mother and siblings, Namakula said, “l had already become a campaigner, but it was while l was working in my local hospital laboratory that I realized how I could use my medical knowledge to reduce the myth young people in my community had about HIV/AIDs.”

2018 CARES award

Potential candidates for the 2018 CARES award includes nurses, healthcare workers, national coordinators, laboratory scientists, and even clinicians. It also includes lay people who are active in community outreach work or social workers providing AIDS counseling. Once a name has been added to the list of nominations, the HIV community will have the chance to vote in their support. The top three with the greatest number of nominations will be put forward for the final judging panel. An internationally recognized panel of judges selects the award recipient(s) and bestows an award of $5,000.

Nominations for the 2018 award must be made via the website where rules of entry, names of judges, and the official causes likely to benefit are available.

HACT caregiver Philisiwe Magoso tending to a patient in the Respite Unit.

CARES supports the UNAIDS 90-90-90 target to ensure that by the year 2020, 90 percent of people living with HIV will know their status, 90 percent of those with diagnosed HIV infection will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy, and 90 percent of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have viral suppression.

CARES focuses on encouraging innovative solutions for the monitoring of HIV/AIDS treatment. It was inspired by the work of Professor Debbie Glencross, a leading South African laboratory pathologist, who found an inexpensive way to measure a patient’s CD4 count, a special type of white blood cell that can indicate how compromised a person’s immune system might be. Prof. Glencross serves as Director and Principle Pathologist in the Flow Cytometry unit of the Department of Hematology at the Charlotte Maxeke Johannesburg Academic Hospital.

Follow this space next month in MLO’s December Special Feature to start Beckman Coulter Life Sciences’ technical overview of “12 Steps to CD4 Testing.”