Tackling the taboo subject of HIV infection and sexual health among Croydon’s African community has earned a council public health worker a prestigious award.
Fred Semugera, the council’s lead sexual health promotion officer, was at Portcullis House, Westminster, on Tuesday (28) to be honoured at the Excellence in Public Health and Wellbeing awards ceremony. His award was presented by minister for public health, Jane Ellison MP.
The event recognised heroes from across London and beyond who are leading local initiatives to improve the nation’s health and well-being, and who go above and beyond to make local schemes and initiatives a success.
Nominated by Rachel Flowers, the borough’s director of public health, Fred’s work to improve sexual and reproductive health for the local African community outreach programme was chosen as one of three winners from a shortlist of nine London nominees.
Fred said: “I’ve been doing outreach work with the black African community in Croydon for about 18 years, now.
“The aim has been to improve sexual and reproductive health, and, in particular, to reduce the stigma around HIV infection, which remains a taboo subject for many of the groups I work with.
“It’s been a matter of building trust and learning the way the communities work within themselves. Through building that trust, I’ve been able to challenge long-held beliefs and increase awareness of the dangers and how they can be dealt with.”
As HIV lead for African communities, Fred has contributed to the redesign of Croydon’s integrated sexual health services, providing feedback from the community. His knowledge also informed the condom-distribution review in 2015, and HIV testing week for several years.
One challenging area in which Fred has been successful is in negotiating with faith leaders locally to allow HIV testing on site in faith venues.
Of that success, Ms Flowers said: “This takes enormous relationships-building, perseverance and commitment to improving access and awareness among groups where stigma is still high.”
Councillor Louisa Woodley, cabinet member for families, health and social care
“This is a tremendous, and well-deserved, award for Fred who has done a terrific job of driving home the message of the importance of good sexual health among communities with deep-seated, and often out-dated, beliefs.
“It’s great that his dedication and personal achievements have been recognised, and it’s also a feather in the cap of the council’s ground-breaking public health work that seeks to improve the life chances of all Croydon’s residents.”