The AHF is the biggest non-profit HIV/AIDS organisation in the world and they are really making a difference!
They provide medicine to over 600 000 AIDS patients worldwide. In South Africa, they opened the “Ithembalabantu Clinic” in Umlazi, Durban in 2001 at the time when the government was ambivalent about the rollout of anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs.
The clinic has been a beacon of hope to many people living with HIV in KwaZulu-Natal. It began with 100 patients in an old office building, and now offers care to about 15 000 patients, including children born with HIV.
“One in ten South Africans — or over 4.3 million people — now live with HIV/AIDS,” said NetCom SA executive director Nomaswazi Mlaba. “Very few of these individuals have access to the life-saving AIDS drug regimens or medical care more widely available in the North.”
GoodThingsGuy sat down with AHF President Michael Weinstein to chat to him about the amazing work the initiative is doing and also find out about the “Keep the Promise” concert.
Weinstein recounts that the organisation was petitioned to help by South African activists who were disappointed by the outcomes of the 2000 bi-annual International AIDS Conference in Durban.
Despite resistance by the national government, Ithembalabantu was opened in 2001 with a staff compliment of three. And, for many years, the AHF was one of only three organisations offering anti-retroviral (ARV) drugs in KwaZulu-Natal.
What inspired you to set up the Foundation?
On the opening night of the conference at the cricket stadium I heard President Mbeki double down on saying that HIV didn’t cause AIDS. A large group of us walked out of the ceremony. The next day an activist slipped a note under my door and asked me to meet them in the restaurant in the lobby of the hotel. They pleaded with me for help. I asked them to show me what was happening in the community. The next day we toured different places and I was horrified. There was utter hopelessness. I invited them to come to the US and that is how it all began.
What challenges did you face in the early days?
The biggest challenges were lack of support from government; drug prices and lack of funding.
How did you overcome these challenges?
We protested and sued to bring prices down. We received some funding from the US and we partnered with whoever we could at the local level.
Where is the programme today?
We are in four states (in South Africa) and are treating more than 100,000 patients, part of the 629,000 patients we treat around the world.
What do you believe we need to do to end HIV/AIDS by 2030?
We need much more funding; improved prevention, and a focus on the most at risk groups.
The organisation believes more still needs to be done to end HIV/AIDS in 2030. It has lauded the South African government under President Jacob Zuma for its massive rollout of antiretroviral drugs.
South Africa has the largest HIV treatment programme in the world, with 3, 4 million people on treatment and 10 million tested for HIV every year.
“We appreciate that the government wants to work with us, and has partnered with us,” says Terri Ford, Chief of Global Advocacy & Policy.
“The South African government has stepped up more than any other government in the world. We want to continue our partnership so that we can stop HIV in South Africa, and the way to do that is to get as many people tested and on treatment,” she says.
The AHF have set the bar so high, but we know, as the Youth of South Africa, we can continue to fight the disease that is spreading most quickly among the nation’s young people.
Let’s gather the rally’s and together we can KEEP THE PROMISE!
For more information, and how YOU can help please click here.
Keep the Promise (KTP) 2016 is an empowering advocacy platform organized by the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, partners, and CSOs to accelerate the fight against HIV/AIDS. After 15 years the International AIDS Conference (IAC) returns to South Africa. Keep the Promise events will kick off prior to the IAC, on Saturday, July 16, 2016 in Durban, South Africa.
The KTP events include a March through the city center and a jam-packed Concert featuring international artists Common and Queen Latifah and South African superstars Mi Casa & Big Nuz along with dignitaries and amazing speakers.
KTP 2016 focuses on the need for a strong scale-up of global AIDS funding and calls on governments, global funding bodies and individuals to commit to ending the epidemic.
Now is not the time to decrease funding! Now is not the time to give up the fight or slow down the progress. We cannot forsake millions of people who need help, nor give up on the efforts and resources we’ve already invested into the fight.
KTP invite you to support Keep the Promise 2016 and participate with us in this historic event in Durban, South Africa on July 16, 2016.