Gideon B Byamugisha says he is humbled to have been named as this year’s recipient of the prestigious Niwano Peace Prize - the Nobel Peace Prize of faith communities.
The Ugandan cleric, who is a Christian Aid Goodwill Ambassador for HIV and Aids - was the first African religious leader to declare publicly that he was HIV positive. The prize, which carries an award of $213,000, is in recognition of his ongoing work across the continent in advocating effective HIV prevention and treatment and fighting stigma and prejudice.
One member of the prize committee of the Tokyo-based Niwano Peace Foundation.said, "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."
Canon Gideon was diagnosed with HIV 17 years ago and responded to his illness with openness and honesty. He went on to jointly found the International Network of Religious Leaders living with, or affected by HIV (INERELA).
This Christian Aid partner encourages people to view HIV as a virus, not a moral issue. Christian Aid developed a new approach to treatment, SAVE, calling for safer practices to prevent all forms of HIV transmission; universally available medication; voluntary counselling and testing; and the empowerment of individuals - with men and women able to make decisions about their relationships.
Canon Gideon said he thought it was a hoax when he first received the email telling him he had won the award: "My first reaction was thinking that I was being approached by internet con-men and fraudsters who tell you you have won lots of money then later trick you. Now I know it is for real!
"I and my family, my friends, my staff and my development partners are very excited by the announcement. At the the same time, I am humbled to discover that my work and ministry against HIV and AIDS related stigma, shame, denial, discrimination, inaction and mis-action has been noticed and appreciated."
Canon Gideon says he will put the money toward two projects: the Llandenny Quiet Gardens House and Retreat Centre and the Hope Institute(are these in Uganda?...otherwise say where) to further transformational leadership and development. He says both are part of his vision of a future free from Aids.
Rachel Baggaley, the head of Christian Aid’s HIV programme said: "Christian Aid is hugely proud and delighted that the energy and courage of Canon Gideon has been recognised by naming him the recipient of this international award."
The Niwano Peace Prize will be presented to Canon Gideon in Tokyo on 7 May 2009.