An Anglican pastor has been awarded the Niwano Peace Prize for breaking down the stigma attached to living with HIV.
Ugandan Rev. Gideon Byamugisha is the first known African cleric to declare publicly that he was HIV-positive. He was awarded the prize, considered akin to the Nobel Peace Prize by the faith community, for inspiring others through public acknowledgement of his condition.
"Canon Gideon has turned personal suffering into a religious message of hope and courage and has matched it with constructive action that has provided inspiration and help to so many who have fallen victim to the HIV/AIDs pandemic," said a spokesperson for the Japan-based Niwano Peace Foundation.
"He behaves, not like a victim but a mover and shaker, he defends and protects as a human being and a pastor, the most vulnerable on the planet."
Since the cleric's public announcement that he was living with HIV, other religious leaders have come forward to do the same and according to Linda Hartke of the Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance, it has also raised awareness among people of all faiths, "calling them to be strong advocates for prevention, treatment, care and support."
Byamugisha is canon of two cathedrals, one in Uganda and the other in Zambia. The Niwano Peace Prize is named after the first president of the Buddhist organisation Rissho Kosei-kai, Nikkyo Niwano who devoted most of the last half of his life to promoting world peace through inter-religious discussion and cooperation.