"Omololu Falobi lived life only for 35 years. Yes he
was in a hurry. He was a visionary. For those who knew him they would realize
that this conference was part of his vision. M2010 is a turning point where it
has become glaringly obvious that developing and rolling out new HIV prevention
technologies is as much about community voices, politics, media, culture as it
is about science. That's what Omololu thought of, that's what he dreamed
of", said Manju Chatani Gada, at the closing ceremony of the International
Microbicides Conference (M2010) in Pittsburgh, USA. Manju represents AVAC:
Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention, African Microbicides Advocacy Coalition
(AMAG) and has demonstrated a rich experience of community-centric responses to
"Omololu was killed in October 2006 in Lagos, Nigeria.
He was a powerful international activist, a gifted journalist, a friend, a
father, and a force to be reckoned with when it came to community activism. He founded
and led the Journalists' Against AIDS in Nigeria (JAAIDS) and was instrumental
in establishing several coalitions including the New HIV Vaccine and
Microbicides Advocacy Society. His vision was of Africans to have a say in the
issues that affected their lives and community advocates everywhere to be
involved in shaping the response to AIDS" said Manju Chatani Gada.
"The field is growing fast and changing and many new
faces are in this room. Perhaps many of you may not have been privileged to
know Omololu. But rest assured, some project you know of, some network you are
part of, some journalist who has covered your research, was touched by him. His
vision lives in the form of Omololu Falobi Award for Excellence in HIV
Prevention Community Advocacy" said Manju Chatani.
The award was created to have an ongoing legacy to recognize
the commitment of HIV prevention research advocates. The award was established
by the African Microbicides Advocacy Group (AMAG), in partnership with AVAC,
the Global Campaign for Microbicides (GCM), Journalists Against AIDS (JAAIDS)
and the New HIV Vaccine and Microbicides Advocacy Society. We thank a number of
supporters including AMAG, AVAC, Family Health International (FHI), Global
Campaign for Microbicides (GCM), NHVMAS and the joint United Nations programme
on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS)
While sharing her memories of how the screening committee
selected the 2010 Omololu Falobi Award for HIV Prevention Community Advocacy,
Manju Chatani Gada said: "One member of the screening committee said 'it
was an easy choice. He is an epitome of science meets advocacy'. The 2010
Omololu Falobi Award for HIV Prevention Community Advocacy goes to Charles
Shagi from Tanzania."
"Omololu was an incredible man" said the inaugural
recepient of 2008 Omololu Falobi Award for HIV Prevention Community Advocacy
Lori Heise. "Charles' enthusiasm is infectious and he has been committed
to helping recruit and mentor new people to the movement to expand the range of
HIV prevention options," said Lori Heise, former Executive Director of the
Global Campaign for Microbicides and one of the inaugural recipients of the
award and member of the 2010 selection committee. "We need more people
like Charles who can ably bridge the gap between researchers and community members."
I couldn't have agreed more for having had the privilege to
work closely with Omololu in early 2000s on HIV prevention advocacy. Lori was
indeed a symbolic choice for thousands of people at least who are committed to
push HIV prevention advocacy on daily basis.
The 2010 recepient of Omololu Falobi Award for HIV
Prevention Community Advocacy, Charles Shagi, is a community educator who
developed innovative ways to link women in Tanzanian villages with life-saving
HIV prevention information and with HIV prevention research trials. Charles
Shagi, a Program Officer for the African Medical and Research Foundation based
in Mwanza, Tanzania, was honored for his significant contributions to
developing and sustaining community engagement and education programs that
empower women and their communities to advocate from themselves and to become
vital partners in HIV prevention research trials.
"Bringing HIV prevention research to communities is an
essential part of our work to develop new HIV prevention options for men and
women," said Sharon Hillier, Microbicides 2010 Co-chair and a member of
the award selection committee. "Charles embodies what this award was
created to recognize: leadership, commitment and passion in community advocacy.
He works tirelessly not only to help women advocate on their own behalf and to
become involved in research, but also to educate and empower researchers to
understand the needs of women, their families and communities."
Charles works tirelessly not only to help women, their
families and their communities advocate on their own behalf and to become
involved in research.
"I am very humbled to accept this award, and for me, it
really underscores the value this field put on the importance of reaching out
to the women. - in the villages of Tanzania and around the world - who
participate in these trials" said Shagi. "This award is important
because it proves that people do care about them. It is the courage of those
women that is being honored today. I look forward to continuing to share the
voices and experiences of vulnerable women with the research and advocacy
"I urge all HIV prevention researchers to listen to the
community. There is need for all of us to change attitude, but especially the
researchers and our leaders since we have a long walk left. Communities should
be at the center of research, not at the periphery," Shagi added.
The Omololu Falobi Award highlights the essential role of
community advocacy and leadership in HIV prevention research. It celebrates the
life and values of the late Omololu Falobi, a long-time HIV advocate and
journalist who founded Journalists Against AIDS in Nigeria, was an instrumental
pioneer member of the Nigerian Treatment Access Movement, and co-founded the
New HIV Vaccine & Microbicide Advocacy Society. Omololu was killed in
Lagos, Nigeria in October 2006. The award was conceived as an ongoing legacy
that recognizes his commitment and lasting contributions to HIV prevention
"Omololu was a visionary leader and activist, who
accomplished much in his too short a life. He dedicated himself to
powerful advocacy for HIV and HIV prevention research in Nigeria, Africa and
worldwide," said Funmi Doherty of NHVMAS in Nigeria. "It is
gratifying to see his ideals and vision live on through this award. I know he
would be immensely proud of the work that Charles and the past recipients are
doing to simultaneously advance human rights and HIV prevention research."
Shagi was chosen from among an impressive group of almost 20
nominees by an independent international panel of HIV prevention research
advocates, policy makers, and scientists. The selection committee noted his
instrumental role in pioneering new ways to bring the voices of community
members and participants into the research process.
Charles and his colleagues have also documented and
published peer reviewed articles about their model for community representation
and participation in HIV prevention trials among women. This research is
an important guide for those working on community engagement plans for HIV
prevention trials around the world. (CNS)
Contributed by: Bobby Ramakant