Beauty pageant empowers young people living with HIV

Mr and Mrs Y+

Nyanzi and Gloria (21) from Uganda were crowned Mr and Mrs Y+ during a beauty contest for young people living with HIV in 2017. The contest doesn’t focus on looks, but on being a role model for other young people with HIV, on being able to advocate for the needs of young people, and to increase acceptance and understanding of young people living with HIV in society.

“From the time I was crowned as Miss Y+, the very first change that happened, I was no longer seen as someone worthless”

Robinah – Miss Y+ 2015

“How I liked the contest? When I came here, I wasn’t very confident. But due to the trainings, I can walk, I can talk, I can express myself. Yeah, and I am really confident about myself,” Mrs Y+ Gloria tells. “I learned new skills such as baking cakes that I can use to earn an income. And I had a lot of fun, too!”

Mr Y+ Nyanzi adds: “I am now able to speak out my inner feelings to a large audience. I have been doing this but only on ground level and the beauty pageant gives you a platform to speak out globally just like I am doing right now.  You have many young positives with different obstacles out there, but they can’t even speak English. So as Mr Y+ I want to work with them, get their challenges, their views and put it at the national level. That’s what I want.’

Gloria continues: “What I want to do with my skills after the beauty pageant? I want to sensitise young people, especially those who are living with HIV, to believe in themselves, that they can achieve so much more than what other people believe.”

“Sexual health and rights is an important thing above al. As a young person, I have the right in the first place, to understand what it means. Our elders refuse us to understand. A very, very big mistake. For example, they don’t want us to know about family planning and about having sex, and yet these are things we do in reality,” says Nyanzi.

It’s for the 4th time that the Y+ Beauty Pageant took place. The Uganda Network of Young People living with HIV/AIDS (UNYPA) took the initiative in 2014 after a girl was rejected from attending a beauty contest due to her HIV status. The Y+ Beauty Pageant aims to reduce stigma young people with HIV are facing on daily basis.