A tribute to women in the HIV/AIDS space

Yet another year passes where we celebrate and honour women of 1956 for their bravery in South Africa. On 09 August 1956 over 20 000 women of all races and ages from all walks of life marched to the Union Building in Pretoria to protest against the pass laws that restricted free movement. The pass laws affected women more so as their rights and voices were not recognised in the countries’ laws and policies.  The leaders of the women’s march delivered a petition that was signed by women from all corners of South Africa to the Prime Minister’s office expressing their anger and frustration at having their activities controlled. Women of South Africa will always give salute to those women!

Today I am reflecting on the bravery of women in South Africa post 1956 who continue to fight for our rights.

Over 30 years ago the first HIV case was discovered. A few years later Africa, in particular Sub-Saharan Africa was the most affected by the epidemic. Women and children were and still are vulnerable and bearing the brunt of HIV/AIDS. Among many struggles faced by women, HIV/AIDS and violence against women are the leading challenges today.

Since the beginning of my career, I have been in the HIV/AIDS space and I would like to express my sincere gratitude to all the women who have been part of my journey. I give salute to the women in different spheres of profession at all levels supporting and providing service to people seeking HIV/AIDS management care. I am referring to the cleaners, nurses, counsellors, doctors, pharmacists, outreach staff etc in the healthcare industry.  Despite dire health systems and working conditions you wake up every morning and show up to your respective areas of work to give your best. We say power to you!

Join me in celebrating women who gave time and volunteered to help scientists and researchers develop HIV treatments. When back in the day there was no hope, today there is so much of hope. I remember about 15 years ago many deaths were recorded every hour, there were funerals almost every day in many South African communities due to AIDS related illnesses. Just like women of 1956, the bravery of women who were part of the HIV space ensured free access of the lifesaving AIDS treatment drugs for all. Your triumph will forever be cherished!

When a woman discovers that she is carrying a life in her belly, life changes. In most cases this moment is celebrated. However, I remember many years ago when I was still in school watching the news cover 8-year Nkosi Johnson story. He shared his HIV status and spoke about how he needed treatment. At the time many children born with HIV would not even reach the age of 8 years, it was catastrophic. A few months later I heard of his sad passing. It was women again who took the bull by the horns to protect their unborn babies. Yet again women stepped up and participated in mother-to-child HIV prevention programmes. Today many children are born HIV free and living their healthy lives because of those women. Woman, you are truly a mother of the nation!

I pay tribute to angry women just like those of 1956, who fight for a change in policies so that people living with HIV have the same rights as everyone else.  I am talking about women who are not scared to take it to the street to chant, picket, demonstrate, fight for the rights of people living with HIV. These women also continue to raise their voices about the urgent need for more HIV prevention options for women… Activists and advocates this goes out to you!

The number of new HIV infections among adolescent girls and young women in sub-Sahara Africa remains exceptionally high. According to a UNAIDS report published in 2019, four in five new infections among adolescents aged 15–19 years are in girls. Young women aged 15–24 years are twice as likely to be living with HIV than men. This is the face and the narration of a young African woman. A special shout-out to young women who are committed to changing the story by participating in various programmes aimed at combating HIV/AIDS. Forward to the HIV free generation!

A special Happy Women’s Day to the Inside My Purse team; YOU woman reading this post, contributors, subscribers, editors and every woman in the world!

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