Mr. Arafat Bwambale (2021)
Our major aim of the organization was to truly empower patients with information which is relevant, easily understood, and comprehensible. We realized this was important to ensure the misconceptions were reduced within our communities….I felt that I think it is important for us as young people to bring in some energy and prescribe solutions to the problems facing our community
Mr. Bwambale is a community leader dedicated to mobilizing and empowering patients in the fight against hepatitis B and C. After witnessing how a lack of awareness and stigma around hepatitis B can devastate families first hand, Mr. Bwamable co-founded the Great Lakes Peace Centre (GLPC), a grass root youth led organisation in Kasese, Rwenzori Sub-Region in Western Uganda. At Great Lakes Peace Centre, he works in advocacy and peacebuilding to support youth empowerment and social justice in Uganda, with a focus on destigmatizing viral hepatitis. In addition, Bwambale is the focal person for hepatitis B at Bwera General Hospital, supporting hospital-based awareness efforts and running a hepatitis B patient support group. In this role, he coordinates psychosocial support and counselling and supporting them when they face discrimination and stigma.
Through his work, Bwambale has increased screening for viral hepatitis, educated his community to reduce stigma, and advocated for HBV birth dose vaccination.
"Because many people are still ignorant about hepatitis and think it’s caused by witchcraft or a rudimentary African monster, we work hard to raise awareness, break down stigma, reduce barriers to diagnosis to find the missing millions, and encourage people to get tested," says Arafat.
Additionally, he has organized annual hepatitis B charity walks to rally domestic political support and highlight the risks of HBV. The charity walks have been attended by high-level political figures, the Prime Minister, members of Parliament, local leaders, religious leaders, and many community members. In response to the charity walks, Parliament allocated domestic funding to the hepatitis B program for the first time, at about US$ 3 million annually.
When the Ugandan government declared a lockdown to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, Bwambale arranged for a team of five youth volunteers to help deliver medication by bike, motorbike, and foot to almost 400 patients. He also coordinated an emergency phone line for patients to call and request medications they could not access.
Arafat is dedicated to spending every last bit of energy to fighting for elimination of viral hepatitis.