There was great joy among the Kasese network of young people living with HIV when their own, Micheal Ballack Ssenyonga was crowned Mr Y+ at the Y Plus Beauty Pageant in November 2019. The pageant is an initiative by Uganda Network of Young People Living with HIV (UNYPA) to ensure that young positives nurture their esteem and confidence by being reminded that no matter their status, they are beautiful and have all the potential they need.
Becoming Mr Y+ meant that for the coming year, Micheal an the Miss Y+ Esther Kabasambo would have to grow into leaders who would steer UNYPA’s over 400 young ambassadors to champion programs fighting against HIV from the frontline. They had to always have answers and creative ideas for solving the young people’s challenges. In 2020 one of Micheal’s biggest tasks in the new responsibility arrived, and he responded remarkably.
“Due to the lockdown, I interacted with many young people living with HIV and found that most of them were on the verge of quitting their medication because they lacked food” Micheal narrates.
Feeding is one of the biggest aids to proper adherence, moving closely with access to medication. Micheal like other ambassadors had been patrolling communities on bikes and on foot delivering medication to their peers but the lack of food was a whole new problem that required quick address.
He quickly contacted people who he knew could help with food donations and they were willing but the only way nutritional support could be availed was through the District Task Force. Given the number of people they have to serve, Micheal felt that the issue of urgency towards young people living with HIV would be compromised
“I contacted Martha Clara (Nakato) from UNYPA for support to write a letter to the RDC convincing him to allow me work with the task force to help with providing food for YPLHIV to adhere to their medication” he said.
The RDC was very welcoming of this suggestion and forwarded it to the task force, allowing Micheal to not only distribute the food he had got from well-wishers but also directing that he gets the supplies from the task Force to buff up what he had.
“I was overjoyed. It looked like a big task at first but I needed this to happen for my peers. I pushed for it knowing it was important and I was very glad it passed” Micheal says with a wide smile.
Due to Micheal’s efforts, 300 adolescents and young people living with HIV received 5kgs of Maize flour and 3kgs of beans.
“The target is to supply nutrition support to 700 young people in Kasese. With 300 out of the way, we are motivated to advocate further and aid the remaining 400” he concluded.
UNYPA’s theme for this year is Changing The Narrative. With such a move by the Mr Y+, it is quickly being realised.