24 February, New Delhi, India -- Two advocates have received the inaugural Omololu Falobi Award for Excellence in HIV Prevention Research Community Advocacy. The awards honor 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 Nigerian HIV Vaccine & Microbicide Advocacy Group. Omololu was killed in Lagos, Nigeria in October 2006.
The award was created to celebrate the life and values of this remarkable man and to create an ongoing legacy that recognizes his commitment and lasting contributions to HIV prevention research advocacy. The award will highlight the essential role of community advocacy and leadership in HIV prevention research.
"Omololu was a visionary leader and activist, who accomplished much in his short life. He dedicated himself to powerful advocacy around HIV and HIV prevention research in Nigeria, Africa and worldwide. He set new standards for HIV journalism on the continent and facilitated dialogue and engagement between communities, researchers, policy makers, media and civil society around vaccines and microbicides," said Mitchell Warren of AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition. "This award will honor advocates around the world who share Omololu's vision."
Impressed with the calibre of the individuals nominated, the independent review committee have selected two individuals to receive the inaugural Omololu Falobi Award for Excellence in HIV Prevention Research Community Advocacy award -- Srikrishnan Aylur Kailasam for community advocacy, and Lori Heise for international leadership. This is a mirror to Omololu's own work and vision -- community focus with international scope.
Srikrishnan Aylur Kailasam is the Research Manager at the Y.R. Gaitonde Center for AIDS Research and Education in Chennai, India. Kailasam was honored for his pivotal role in working with and supporting marginalized communities in research settings. In selecting Kailasam for this Award, the selection committee noted his leadership in community research in India, and his commitment to, and respect for the communities that he works with. This has enabled those communities to be not only more informed about research and the importance of research, but also benefit from that research. Kailasam has worked tirelessly to develop bridges between science and community, and strives to improve the quality of life of the communities he serves.
Lori Heise is the Director for the Global Campaign for Microbicides, based in Washington D.C. Heise was honored for her leadership and commitment to the involvement of communities in microbicide research as partners, and her visionary leadership as a founding member of the Global Campaign for Microbicides. The selection committee praised Heise's practice in cultivating leadership and inspiring advocates worldwide. It is with this mandate, that she has led the Campaign to use its resources to build capacity, support leadership, and implement joint projects with other NGOs, many of them now vital leaders. The committee highlighted one referee's words in saying, "the field of microbicide advocacy is the lengthened shadow of one woman, Lori Heise"
The honorees were chosen by an independent international panel of HIV prevention research advocates and researchers, including Salim Abdool Karim of South Africa, Nomita Chandhiok of India, Tim Farley of Switzerland, Nadine France of Thailand, Shaun Mellors of the South Africa, Alex Menezes of Brazil, Kingsley Obom-Egbulem of Nigeria, Badri Saxena of India, and Laurie Sylla of USA. The award review committee was constituted and invited to play this role by the Award Planning Committee.
The inaugural Falobi awards will be presented at the Closing Ceremony of International Microbicides 2008 Conference in New Delhi, India. The planning committee has raised resources to ensure that the award is sustained through the next decade.
"This award is important in keeping Omololu's vision alive. It will be a visible platform for ongoing recognition of the contribution of advocates and leaders to the HIV prevention research field," said Olayide Akanni of Journalists Against AIDS in Nigeria. "We are pleased to launch the award by honouring two people who have made enormous contributions to the field. Omololu would be proud of their work and deserving of this honour."
The award was conceptualised and the process coordinated by the African Microbicides Advocacy Group (AMAG) in partnership with the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition (AVAC), the Global Campaign for Microbicides (GCM), Journalists Against AIDS in Nigeria (JAAIDS), the Nigerian HIV Vaccine & Microbicides Advocacy Group (NHVMAG), and the Treatment Action Movement Nigeria (TAM). Financial support for the 2008 Award came from AMAG, AVAC, GCM, NHVMAG and Family Health International.