“All of us have to choose to respond to the challenges of our own times. For me the challenge is HIV/AIDS” – Omololu Falobi
About the Award
The Omololu Falobi Award for Excellence in HIV Prevention Research Community Advocacy was established to pay tribute to the life and work of Omololu Falobi and to highlight the essential role of community advocacy in HIV prevention research. It honors individuals who have shown leadership and commitment to HIV prevention research advocacy and inspired others to action. It is presented biannually and traditionally, the award has come with a plaque, a cash prize and a scholarship to attend the conference where the award is presented to the recipient. In 2016, the Award was given to all individuals who were nominated in honor of the growing community of HIV prevention advocacy since Omololu Falobi’s passing 12 years ago.
The 2021 Award Vision
2020 has been a year like no other in modern history with a pandemic that has left no country untouched. Almost 60 million people globally have been infected by Coronavirus-2 (SARS-Cov-2), of whom 1.4 million have lost their lives due to the ensuing COVID-19 disease. The 2021 Award will honor young advocates who have risen to the challenge of providing care, prevention and information and at the same time ensuring that we are not losing ground in HIV prevention.
The 2021 Award recognizes and appreciates those courageous and inspiring young activists, advocates and community engagement workers who have:
- innovated to ensure that biomedical HIV and related research continued safely despite the COVID-19 pandemic—including adapting and developing approaches to ensure trial participants and sites remain safe; and/or
- advocated to ensure that HIV treatment, care and prevention work continues through differentiated service delivery models, through providing accurate information and demanding that community voices help shape the response.
Omololu Falobi was 35 years old when he passed, so this year’s award will focus on nominees 35 years and younger so that we can bring light to their efforts to make their communities stronger, better, healthier and to bring more justice.
2021 Omololu Falobi Award Winner
Winner: Winifred Ikilai
2021 Omololu Falobi Award Winner, Winifred Ikilai, is an HIV, health, research and rights activist from Uganda who has spent several years coordinating both HIV and sexual and reproductive health services throughout Uganda including PEPFAR DREAMS programming. Despite the unique challenges presented by COVID-19, this courageous and inspiring young advocate developed creative messages and used multiple mediums and online platforms to engage civil society in Uganda and regionally in important conversations about the dapivirine vaginal ring, HIV vaccines, injectable PrEP and the urgent need to maintain a focus on HIV prevention. Winifred helped develop the “Beyond My Pill Campaign” to advocate for effective implementation of test and treat, and was an effective and outspoken advocate for three-month refills and access to food support for people living with HIV in Uganda. Winifred is a 2020 AVAC Fellow hosted by the National Forum of People Living with HIV and AIDS Networks in Uganda (NAFOPHANU). To learn more about her work, visit this page and read this recent World AIDS Day feature that she partnered with IAVI on.
Runner-Up: Shakirah Namwanje
2021 Omololu Falobi Award Runner-up Shakirah Namwanje is an inspiring young advocate from Uganda who will stop at nothing to push the agenda of prevention and treatment options for young people, especially young women. Shakirah is a survivor and a warrior. She speaks openly about being infected with HIV from childhood sexual abuse. She’s an advocate for positive living and HIV prevention, and works tirelessly to see to it that “my HIV ends with me”. Shakirah leads peer education and counseling of young people through experience sharing, music, dance and drama. She is also an activist for the end of sexual abuse in Uganda, especially against girls and young women, and uses radio and talk shows to tell her story to inspire more girls to speak up about their challenges and seek help. When COVID-19 hit, Shakirah immediately embarked on a campaign to ensure that young people and their advocacy agenda are not left behind–she sought input from young people and in turn took their demands to their various spaces she occupies including the Global Fund concept development process, the PEPFAR COP process, and other key national decision-making spaces. Shakirah is a musician and performer as well and uses her music as an advocacy platform. She was a 2019 AVAC Fellow and currently works at the Uganda Network of AIDS Services Organisations as a HIV Prevention Research Programs Officer.
Runner-Up: Aaron Haruna Sunday
2021 Omololu Falobi Award Runner-up Aaron Haruna Sunday is a passionate young TB/HIV and sexual reproductive health activist from Nigeria who has committed himself to the socio-economic development, empowerment, provision of quality youth friendly health services and the protection of the rights of adolescents and young people. Aaron is the Founder and Executive Director of the African Network of Adolescents and Young Persons Development (ANAYD). He is a Youth Ambassador at the International AIDS Society, a member of the Developing Country NGO Delegation at the Global Fund, a Co-Chair of the Youth Advisory Group (YAG) at the United Nations Population Fund. When he’s not doing all this, he’s also a public speaker and musical artist. During COVID-19, Aaron mobilized adolescents and young people to ensure that they remained connected as the pandemic raged. He organized cash transfers, supported peers they received and remained on ART by coordinating a drug delivery and adherence support mechanism during the COVID-19 pandemic. Aaron also uses the various local, regional and global spaces he occupies to elevate issues of adolescents and young people.
2018 Omololu Falobi Award Winner
Winner: Gcobisa Madlolo
2018 Omololu Falobi Award Winner, Gcobisa Madlolo, is an activist, a writer, a proud mother of twins and a fresh, inspiring and powerful voice for young women in her native South Africa and beyond. She participated in the EMPOWER (Enhancing Methods of Prevention and Options for Women Exposed to Risk) study which aimed at development of simple, scalable evidence-informed interventions, adapted for local use in Africa.
Gcobisa’s commitment to finding interventions that work for herself and communities is so deep that when EMPOWER ended in 2017, she made the decision to transition into another demonstration project, POWER (Prevention Options for Women Evaluation Research), which is helping to inform the introduction of oral PrEP among African women. Her passion to get PrEP and other interventions in the hands of young people has taken her from small rural South African villages to some of the biggest spaces in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. The Wits RHI team have described Gcobisa as someone who is immensely invested in her own growth and that of her peers, who is keen to learn new information and gain a deeper understanding of the public health environment, and who always hustles for opportunities to share whatever she learns with others. She works incredibly hard with very little resources to ensure a message about health and empowerment is shared.
Gcobisa is good at building allies far and close to achieve her goals. She says in her recent blog post after the 2018 AIDS Conference in Amsterdam, “My mom has been an incredible part of my PrEP journey. She was the one who introduced me to it, bringing home a pamphlet explaining oral PrEP and encouraging me to find out more. I joined a study offering PrEP shortly after and my mom even helped to remind me to take my tablet every day in the beginning. My mom’s support has really empowered me…”
She’s a real powerhouse, and truly the present and future of women’s HIV prevention and implementation advocacy.
Runner-Up: Ruth Nahurira
2018 Omololu Falobi Award Runner-up Ruth Nahurira is a relentless former study participant who took part in the ASPIRE (A Study to Prevent Infection with a Ring for Extended Use) trial and the HOPE (HIV Open Label Prevention Extension) – two studies of the dapivirine vaginal ring. Ruth has used her personal story and experience to help sensitize communities – those close to her home in Kampala (Uganda) and even globally – about the importance of HIV prevention research – particularly for women. Within the trials themselves, she mentored other study participants, encouraging them to use their assigned rings and to comply with study procedures.
Key researchers in the field have described Ruth as “an instant sensation” and “the embodiment of what HIV prevention research in women is really all about” – a reflection of not just her passion and contribution to research but also her commitment and agency in inspiring others to do their part. Ruth has demonstrated courage, commitment and resolve. The Microbicides Trials Network leadership team have described Ruth as “a ball of fire” and as someone who is truly making a difference… one whose passion for HIV prevention is not limited the dapivirine ring. She passionately talks about women having choice of options that suits their lives (including PrEP) and also about ensuring HIV self-testing is a way to reach men and increase their uptake of ART and PrEP. Ruth is simply an unstoppable leader who is determined to do everything in her power to end to the HIV epidemic.
Ruth is also an exceptionally efficient [and humorous] communicator. Recently at the AIDS2018 Conference in Amsterdam, when asked whether putting the ring in is cumbersome, she was quick to say, “I just make a figure eight and open the gate!” You may see Ruth in action in various spaces here.
Runner-Up: Mercy Mutonyi Wafula
2018 Omololu Falobi Award Runner-up Mercy Mutonyi Wafula is a passionate advocate and one of the earliest adopters of oral PrEP in Kenya. She is a true PrEP ambassador who has been part of the PrEP journey from trial phase to someone who has chosen PrEP as her intervention of choice for HIV prevention. Her work with sex workers earned her an opportunity to not only work as a lead “PrEP Ambassador” but also as a co-investigator of a PrEP demo project.
She is also the coordinator of a DREAMS Innovations Challenge project at the Bar Hostess Empowerment & Support Programme (BHESP) that is focusing on creating awareness and demand for PrEP among sex workers in Nairobi. According to BHESP, Mercy’s efforts have led to the enrolment of more than 5,000 individuals on PrEP in Kenya. Mercy can be seen in action here at an event called Colour Purple Concert in Nairobi in May 2018 at which more than 200 young girls and women were reached with PrEP messages – some of them have since enrolled on PrEP. She’s taken her experience from the grassroots to influence county and national policy through her seat on the Nairobi County and national PrEP technical working groups. To this end, many of her colleagues at BHESP have said of Mercy that “…her input has also influenced the process of developing national guidelines for the rollout and implementation of PrEP, including considerations when conducting research with sex workers.” She’s a real trailblazer!
About Omololu Falobi
Omololu Falobi was a visionary leader who continues to inspire many people and projects. Ten years ago on October 5, 2006, we lost Omololu in a tragic accident. He was a leading HIV/AIDS activist, an advocate for prevention research and an exceptional journalist. Omololu made enormous impact in Nigeria and beyond—he nurtured and led campaigns related to prevention, treatment and research; won multiple awards nationally and internationally; and earned a tremendous reputation from all who had the privilege to work with him. He established the Journalists Against AIDS in Nigeria (JAAIDS), co-created the Nigeria AIDS eForum, co-founded the Nigerian HIV Vaccine and Microbicide Advocacy Group (NHVMAG), was an instrumental, pioneering member of the Treatment Access Movement (TAM) Nigeria and a key leader of the African Civil Society Coalition on HIV and AIDS.
Award Coordinating Committee:
- African Microbicides Advocacy Group (AMAG)
- International Rectal Microbicides Advocates (IRMA)
- Journalists Against AIDS Nigeria (JAAIDS)
- New HIV Vaccine and Microbicides Advocacy Society (NHVMAS)
- Treatment Access Movement (TAM) Nigeria
Financial Support for the Award:
- African Microbicides Advocacy Group (AMAG)
- New HIV Vaccine and Microbicides Advocacy Society (NHVMAS)
- Open Society Institute in South Africa