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The Omololu Falobi Award

“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 10 years ago (read details about the 2016 Award Vision below).

The 2018 Award Vision

The 2018 Award recognizes and appreciates courageous and inspiring young people who have chosen to test and/or use new biomedical HIV prevention tools and to bravely discuss their experiences.

In many regions of the world, young people are disproportionately at higher risk of HIV infection. In recent years, there has been a keen focus on researching and delivering various HIV prevention interventions that young people can and will use. But young people aren’t just standing by waiting for HIV prevention tools to be passed on to them: many have embraced an urgency to ensure that interventions that meet the needs of a diversity of young people are studied, developed, and rolled out. And some have chosen to participate in trials and/or to be an early adopter of these products – and to share their experiences and insights so that the interventions can be better understood and rolled out.

The 2018 Award aims to honor these young people who have braved the odds as research trial participants or early adopters and to speak about their experiences – so as to support efforts at developing new biomedical HIV prevention methods appropriate for their use.

2018 Omololu Falobi Award Winner

Winner: Gcobisa Madlolo

photo of Gcobisa

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

photo of ruth

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

photo of mercy

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 FalobiOmololu 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:

Financial Support for the Award: