Renowned researcher and campaigner of accessible and equitable medical care Dr. Peter Ndimbiirwe Mugenyi has been recognized with a Hero Award in this year’s Young Achievers Awards.
Dr. Mugenyi who is the Executive Director of Joint Clinical Research Centre (JCRC) was awarded for his excellence in medical research and outstanding efforts towards the fight against HIV/AIDS in Uganda.
Mugyenyi, 68, a medical doctor by profession returned from the UK in the early 90s where he had been exiled following the tyrannical Idi Amin regime to fight the HIV epidemic.
In UK, he had undergone training in epidemiology and in 1992 co-founded JCRC now Africa’s largest AIDS treatment and research center.
He is recognized as one of the leading HIV/AIDS researchers in the world.
Later, Mugyenyi served as Chairperson of the AIDS task force at the Ministry of Health and formulated the plan to scale up the fight against HIV in the country.
However, it was his individual effort and firm stand against the profiteering culture by international pharmaceuticals dealing in antiretroviral regimens (ARVs) that stood out.
The expensive costs of such drugs had cost several HIV infected people their lives.
In 2002, in defiance of Uganda’s patent laws, Dr. Mugyenyi led efforts that ordered for low cost HIV drugs from India amid strong opposition by global pharmaceuticals and camped at the Entebbe airport until the drugs were delivered and guarantees given for future shipments.
It is this commitment to reduce the HIV prevalence that convinced former U.S President George W. Bush that Mugyenyi was the better placed as a consultant to help in the formulation of U.S President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program across Africa.
Dr. Mugyenyi who is also Chancellor of Mbarara University of Science and Technology (MUST) received the award on Saturday night at Kampala Serena Hotel accompanied by his wife and two daughters. He said he was humbled to be recognized by young people.
In accepting the award, Dr. Mugyenyi said; “I express my gratitude to the leadership of RAHU and those who nominated me. To me, this is a special award. I have won many other awards but this is the most special because it comes from the future of our country and I have the honor to accept it with humility.”
He dedicated the award to the enormous efforts of people in the community and the orphans that continue to take parental responsibility for their siblings at a very early age.
The future of people brought up by fellow orphans is great, he said.
“We have gone a long way from the time when everyday was a nonstop funeral to now when AIDS funerals are rare. We started with absolutely no treatment, drugs that didn’t work well but now drugs work well,” he added.
According to him, people living with HIV/AIDS who take the drugs properly under medical supervision are guaranteed improvement. “This improvement has revolutionized the way AIDS is managed – death is a thing of the past, women are giving birth to HIV negative children and we are no longer worried about effectiveness of treatment but looking to a cure.”
In a separate interview with ChimpReports after the awards ceremony late Saturday night, he noted that with the current scientific tools, it is possible more than ever to end the AIDS epidemic.
“By end I don’t mean there will be no cases of HIV but they will be few and manageable by our country with its own resources,” he told ChimpReports.
He cautioned young people against living complacently saying HIV is still a threat.