Meet the Mercury Phoenix Trust HIV/AIDS Reporting Fellows!

We are excited to announce the winners of the Mercury Phoenix Trust HIV/AIDS Reporting Fellowship! Out of 205 applications, we have selected 10 fellows from around the world, each representing different communities and cultures. These fellows share a keen interest in HIV vaccine research and development, community-based information and advocacy work, as well as innovation in emerging technologies. A huge congratulations to all of our Fellows, we cannot wait to work with you!

Laura Otieno, Kenya

Otieno is a multimedia journalist with 5 years of experience.

She began media training in radio while undertaking a bachelor’s degree in Media Science at Moi University, Kenya.

Over the years, Otieno has gathered a wealth of experience in multimedia, cutting a niche in the broadcasting industry where she currently works as a correspondent for Citizen TV, the leading television station in Kenya commanding over 50% of the country’s viewership.

She has received accolades from reputable science organisations such as Infonile and Media for Environment, Science, Health, and Agriculture (MESHA), and most recently, the International Women’s Media Foundation and the Agha Khan University graduate school of Media Studies 

Otieno has been awarded grants to report on matters around the environment and health in the Lake Victoria Basin. She has done stories about how marginalised groups in the Lake Victoria Basin have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic while keeping abreast on matters of the vaccine development for malaria and HIV, as the area she operates in carries Kenya’s highest burden of the two and innovative technologies around healthcare. 

Her motivation is focussed on the unexplored angles of otherwise widely reported stories across all disciplines, driven by the need to unearth underreported stories and the application of a solutions journalism approach to inform tangible change in society

“I believe in the agenda-setting role of the media, and I am fully confident that solutions journalism can inspire confidence in societies to enhance better lives and healthier communities,” she says.

Avit Ndayiziga, Burundi

Avit Ndayiziga is a data-driven multimedia journalist based in Burundi. He is the founder and editor of the Community Voice a community-based media outlet that imagines a place where public opinion is listened to. 

Besides, he works with Radio-Culture; a media organization that promotes positive change through culture-friendly and socially relevant journalism.

His journalistic work revolves around in-depth and data-driven business stories, HIV/AIDS and other health-related stories,  innovation and development, environmental issues, climate change, and the social world.

Aliya Bashir, India

Bashir is an independent journalist covering India and Indian-administered Kashmir with a focus on human rights, gender justice, women’s issues, the environment, healthcare, education and minorities. She has written and reported for Global Health Now, Missing Perspectives, The Guardian, Time, Lancet Psychiatry, The New Humanitarian, Reuters, Global Press Journal, TRT World and many more. She is the winner of the 2015 Schizophrenia Research Foundation-Press Institute of India “Media for Mental Health” award for best reporting on mental health issues in India. A HEFAT trainee, she has won reporting grants from International Women’s Media Foundation and Population Reference Bureau.

Katherine Stanley Obando, Costa Rica

Obando is a journalist specializing in in-depth reporting on education, mental health, women’s rights, and civil society initiatives. She is also an experienced nonprofit leader and coach with extensive grant development, research, fundraising and project management experience. She is the co-founder of the media organization El Colectivo 506 (, a bilingual digital magazine focused on solutions journalism for and from Costa Rica that has achieved alliances with the Solutions Journalism Network, National Geographic Society, and the Carter Center, where she served as a 2022 Mental Health Journalism Fellow. Katherine lives in San José with her husband Adrián and daughter Emma, for whom she wrote “Love in Translation: Letters to My Costa Rican Daughter,” published in 2016.

Alex Ababio, Ghana

Ababio, a seasoned journalist and advocate for governance and social justice, possesses extensive experience in research and media.

He currently serves as the Managing Editor of Ghanaian Watch Newspaper and Ghanaian Watch Online. Additionally, he is the Executive Director/President and founder of the African Liberators Economic Institute. With a strong commitment to empowering impoverished individuals, Alex envisions cultivating social entrepreneurship as a catalyst for sustainable development in Ghana and across Africa.

He holds Graduate Diploma in Management Studies from ICM, England, and a Diploma in Commerce from the University of Cape Coast, Ghana. He has also pursued studies in Newspaper Reporting from ICM, England, as well as Media and Information Literacy and Intercultural Dialogue from Athabasca University. Furthermore, he is a Thomson Reuters Foundation fellow, having received specialized training in General News Reporting. Alex has also completed Part 1 of the TESOL Certificate program at Arizona State University.

Ugonna-Ora Owoh, Nigeria

Ugonna-Ora Owoh is a journalist based in Lagos, Nigeria. His writing spans from politics, health, art, fashion and its intersection with gender and sexuality. Bylines includes The New York Times, VOGUE, TheBody, DAZED, TeenVOGUE, Architectural Digest, ESSENCE, VICE and others. 

Aaron Ainomugisha, Uganda

Ainomugisha is a Ugandan Investigative Journalist & Social Entrepreneur advocating for empowered communities and better service delivery, with strong interest in tackling the unreported/underreported issues affecting local communities.

He is a Team Leader with RISE NEWS UGANDA NETWORK Mbarara city western Uganda , a network  that also feeds many on-air & on-line outlets – with emphasis on in-depth, people-centred & impactful Journalism. He is also attached to 91.2 Crooze FM Mbarara city.

He is the Founder of RISE for Community & Media Empowerment-UGANDA, Western Uganda Media Centre-WUMEC UGANDA, and Rise Against Poverty Organization-RAP UGANDA.

Aletta Shikololo, Namibia

Shikololo is a 24-year-old, award winning journalist and media practitioner from Namibia. Most recently she received the New Era Journalist of the Year Award for 2022. She has four years of journalism experience and has extensively covered a wide range of topics including health, politics, human rights, education among other beats. She currently works for the New Era Publication Corporation, a Namibian state-owned newspaper.

Catherine Mwauyakufa, Zimbabwe

Mwauyakufa is a health journalist living openly with HIV. She is the Vice Chairman of the Health Communicators Forum, (HCF) which is hosted by the Humanitarian Information Centre, (HIFC). She writes under the name Catherine Murombedzi. “I decided to be open as a way to encourage pregnant mothers to get tested since I had a successful mother-to-child- transmission prevention story. Since 2009, I have been an advocate and activist for HIV prevention.” She has sat on the National Aids Council Board representing the media. She has sat on the advisory council to the Ministry of Health and Child Care on ending HIV/AIDS She sits on the TransSmart board as the Secretary. She is a Fellow of CNS Health of India. Amongst the several local and international awards she has to her cap, Catherine is proud to have been honoured with the Auxillia Chimusoro Communication Award in 2010. The USAID honours individuals or organisations for remarkable contribution to fighting HIV/AIDS.

M. Waqar Bhatti, Pakistan

M. Waqar Bhatti is an investigative journalist associated with English-language daily The News International and news channel Geo News, Pakistan as a special correspondent covering health, environment and climate change.

He has over 22 years of experience in the field of journalism as print, electronic and digital media journalist and during his career, he did investigative stories in the filed of medicine and drugs, militancy, politics and economy.

Born in Karachi, he studied biological sciences followed by graduation in mass communication from University of Karachi and started his career from Pakistan Press International (PPI) News Agency as a reporter in 1999. In 2007, he joined The News International and Geo News as senior reporter and travelled to different countries of the world covering health, diplomacy, militancy, conflict, climate change and economic issues.