“Uganda has AIDS. We call it siliimu. And siliimu is within us and among us. And It is only Philley Bongoley Lutaya that has accepted to show us that it is here. And it is up to us know how to handle it,” said Victoria Kakoko Sebagereka, who was the Chairperson of the National Council of Women in 1986.
Akiiki Victoria Sebagereka was born on 17th July 1946. She died on 4th August 2021. Her father was Bernard Kakoko while her mother was a Princess from Tooro, Princess Agnes Mega Bagaya.
At the time, the NRA/ NRM government was just four months in power and there were few activists. The new government was also faced with increasing cases of HIV/AIDS, especially in Kasensero in Rakai district. There were also high incidents of HIV/AID among some of the soldiers with the NRA ranks and file.
At the time stories were told about how some within the government were reluctant to declare that Uganda was battling HIV/AIDs but others suggested otherwise.
Victoria Sebagereka was a fighter, fearless, relentless and loud. She with the late Anglican Bishop Misaeri Kitemaggwa Kauma were voicing for the open approach to HIV/AIDS that later forced a response to a public health crisis and won President Museveni admiration at regional and international level. They both insipired a movement.
While most credit for Uganda’s open policy to HIV/AIDS has gone to President Museveni, the late Victoria Kakoko Sebagereka’s one brave moment at Gayaza High School remains unknown to some of Uganda’s young generation.
Victoria Kakoko Sebagereka was one of the conveners of the international conference on women’s healthcare. She used that conference to invite the late Ugandan musician Philly Bongoley to Lutaaya to address the conferences about his HIV/AIDs status.
She would soon run into trouble with fellow Ugandans and many delegates from Africa who had never seen a person suffering or living with HIV/AIDS.
Some members of the organizing committee had resisted the idea saying the emaciated and frail-looking Philly Bongoley Lutaaya would scare their guests.
“But I hope and trust that you bear with me that for him it is a big thing to carry. He is carrying it for us, for you and me. And for generations to come,” Sebagereka pleaded.
Philly Bongoley Lutaaya was eventually allowed to address the conference where he declared that he had AIDS. Lutaaya spent his remaining healthy time writing songs about his battle with AIDS before dying of AIDS at the age of 38.
From the event in Gyaza, the late Victoria Kakoko Sebagereka immersed herself in the HIV/AIDS activism. She became one of the member of the AIDS Support Organization (TASO) even when she joined parliament as a woman MP representing Kayunga District.
Peter Sebanja, one of the TASO founder members in an interview said the late Victoria Kakoko Sabagereka continued to support TASO even when she became a member of Parliament.
Akiiki Victoria Sebagereka was also the president of the International Federation of Agricultural Producers’ standing committee on Women in Agriculture.
Akiiki Victoria Sebagereka’s Quotable Quotes in HIV/AIDS Fight
“AIDS is considered a homosexual disease in developed countries, but it is a heterosexual disease in Africa and it affects us all. Everyone knows someone who is infected or has a family member who has died.”
“It finds women on their marriage beds, especially rural women.”
“The men go to the towns looking for work and when they come home, the women open their loving arms and everything else and they get it from their husbands.”
“It is a scourge and in Africa, it is putting the productive and reproductive edge at risk.”
“In many societies, women are facing serious social, economic, cultural, moral and religious barriers to access to information on the disease, to protective measures and to medication to slow it development in the event of contamination.”
“Moreover, women transmit the virus when giving birth, and so have an especially important role to play in fighting the propagation of AIDS. “It is vital to target women through specific programs.”
“Inequalities between the sexes, societies and continents must be eliminated to halt the epidemic’s spread,” she said.
She was the mother to Mirembe Namwezi Barongo (RIP), Susan Kajura, Anne Aliker, Ruth Nabagereka, Simon Kalemera Semwezi, Damali Nabagereka Abrokwah, Jean Kassami (RIP) and Samwiri Semwezi Kakoko Sebagereka.