Archive for May, 2007


Aids orphan takes on the world

From – Click here for the entire article – Adapted from an article by Vida Li Sik, in Drum, March 2007

She’s just 23 yet she’s challenged Tony Blair, been on TV with Bob Geldof and bowled over one of the world’s most influential businessmen.

Meet Sibulele Sibaca, a dynamic young woman who refused to let hardship get her down and now has the world at her feet.

By age 17 she’d lost both parents to Aids and was bitter, rebellious and heading for a life of promiscuity. Yet Sibulele – or Sibu as everyone calls her – turned things around, thanks to her go-getter attitude and a brother who sacrificed a budding soccer career to help his sister.

Handpicked by Richard Branson
Today the inspirational young woman manages Virgin Active’s Corporate Social Investment Department in South Africa, having been handpicked by Virgin boss Richard Branson himself to join his initiative in Mzansi.

She promotes various charities dealing with HIV/Aids, malaria and TB, and travels the country holding workshops and meeting investors.

‘‘I’m very passionate about what I do,’’ she says. ‘‘Helping the less fortunate and making a difference in their lives means a lot to me.’’

Petite and attractive, Sibu lives in a stylish townhouse in Midrand, Gauteng, drives a gleaming black car with personalised number plates and looks every inch the savvy young exec.

Yet she’ll easily admit she had no idea who Richard Branson was, and at first turned down his job offer. He wasn’t put off – he just said the offer would always be open if she changed her mind.

Which, fortunately, she did.

A life turned upside down
Sibu was born and raised in Langa, Cape Town, where she and her older brother, Sonwabo, enjoyed a reasonably privileged childhood. Their mother taught at a school for children with special needs and their dad was a school inspector and pastor.

Sibu loved going to work with her mom and travelling around the Western Cape with her dad on his school visits. But at age 13 her life turned upside down when her mom died after a short illness.

‘‘My father tried hard to be mom and dad all in one and he did a great job,’’ she recalls. But gradually he too became ill, and passed away in 2000. It was a terrible shock.’’

Psychologist Vanessa Feldman says the loss of both parents at such a young age is extremely traumatic to any child. “It can create deep abandonment wounds,” she says.

Sibu didn’t know what had claimed her parents until she was riding in a taxi and heard women gossiping about her father. ‘‘They said he’d died of Aids,’’ she says softly. ‘‘I was devastated.’’

Sibu confronted her brother when she got home and demanded the truth. He told her their father had confessed the cause of their mother’s death and his own illness.

‘‘I was so angry,’’ she recalls. ‘‘I beat him with my fists, cried and asked him how he could lie to me.’’

Their once happy home life was shattered. To make matters worse, there was precious little money left as their father had cashed in his insurance policies to pay for antiretrovirals (ARVs).

‘‘I hated my dad’s guts,’’ says Sibu. ‘‘I held him responsible for what happened to our mother and I even hated our family name. I rebelled and did a lot of things I’m not proud of: hanging out with boys, being promiscuous.’’

Sibu’s rebellious behaviour as a teenager may have been her way of coping with pain, says Feldman: “Teenagers are very self-conscious and peer approval is critical at that age as they try and fit in with others their age. She was probably trying to find some sense of belonging and love.” Click here to read the entire inspiring article.


African woman appointed HIV/AIDS Special Envoy for Africa

Author: Hone Liwanga
Date: 24 May 2007| from
Summary: United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s appointment of activist Elizabeth Mataka as the HIV/AIDS Special Envoy for Africa is an important step for gender equality in Africa, and for addressing the impact of HIV/AIDS on women. On the same day, 21 May, the General Assembly reviewed progress towards universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support, and discussed the impact of HIV/AIDS on women and girls.

Botswana-born Mataka, who is currently the executive director of the Zambian National AIDS Network, takes over from Canadian Stephen Lewis, whose contract ended at the end of last year. It is exciting to note that her appointment comes barely a month after her election as vice-chair of the Board of the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.It is clear that the fight for gender equality is yielding some much fought for results. Moon should be commended for being gender sensitive and recognising women as key partners in development. Mataka’s appointment should indeed encourage other international and national leaders to rise to the occasion and start appointing more women to key leadership positions.

Reacting to her appointment by Moon in Lusaka recently, Mataka noted that her new role brings her to the forefront of the challenges facing the continent when it comes to HIV/AIDS.

“I am overwhelmed by the magnitude and the recognition of my work at the level of the UN office. I see this appointment as an opportunity to be more effective in the service for Africa on the specific challenges confronting the continent regarding HIV/AIDS, children and women,” Mataka said.

She added, “I see myself as an advocate who will speak very strongly to leverage support to the African continent. I also see this as an opportunity to engage African leaders to see that the continent pulls support towards fighting HIV/AIDS.”

Since Africa has remained the hardest hit continent by HIV/AIDS, Mataka should use her appointment and election as vice chairperson for the Global Fund to work with all Africans to reduce prevalence rates.

UNAIDS reports that women and girls living in sub-Saharan Africa account for almost 60% of adults living with HIV. Efforts to focus on promoting equal access to care and treatment, ensur­ing universal access to education, addressing legal in­equities, reducing violence against women, and valuing women’s care work within communities, are vital to addressing fundamental gender inequalities that are fueling the epidemic.

Violence against women continues to threaten women’s health and safety, no less when it comes to HIV. According to a report produced by the Global Coalition on Women and AIDS, Studies from Rwanda, Tanzania, and South Africa indicate that the risk for HIV among women who have experienced violence may be up to three times higher than among those who have not.

During the review session, General Assembly President Sheikha Haya Rashed Al-Khalifa encouraged UN Member States to recognise the feminisation of HIV/AIDS. She noted that there are some very practical things that can be done to make a tangible difference in women’s lives.

Stephen Lewis was undoubtedly a high energy, outspoken leader, noted for his commitment to women and girls on the continent. Yet to have an African woman as Special Envoy, the first appointed from civil society, is an example for the continent.

There is no doubt that Mataka would discharge her duties as UN special HIV/AIDS special envoy for Africa diligently. A social worker by training, she is a tested leader whose 16 years working experience in HIV/AIDS related work will benefit Africa. As a policy maker and activist, she has worked with Government as well as in the private sector and non-governmental organisations.

As a personality, Mataka exhibits striking maturity and exceptional commitment in her role as a social worker. She has all that it takes to perform to the expectations of Moon and all Africans.

Heads of State in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) have affirmed their commitment to ensuring 50% representation of women in decision-making positions. This means not just ensuring that women are in leadership position in politics, put also in business, social development, and everywhere where decisions are made.

There are so many qualified women in Africa, who are denied influential positions in various sectors of societies by virtue of their gender. Such tendencies are retrogressive and inhibit development in countries. It is time to eliminate the myth of key leadership positions being solely a man’s domain and realise that women are key partners in development, so that the world can move forward.

Hone Liwanga is a journalists and member of the Gender and Media Southern Africa (GEMSA) Network in Zambia. This article is part of the Gender Links Opinion and Commentary Service that provides fresh views on everyday news.


Aids drug prices to fall if Gilead fails to defend patent application


NEW DELHI: Price of a crucial AIDS drug may fall further if Cipla and AIDS patients succeed in their challenge to a patent application filed here by US-based Gilead Sciences Inc.

Gilead Sciences Inc, which is set to defend its patent application for a block-buster AIDS drug before the government, has said that its Indian partners (10 Indian drug-makers) will not be required to pay the 5% royalty if it loses the case.

This is despite the fact that Gilead’s agreement with the Indian drug companies was inked well before the patent office started examining its application.

“As per our agreement with the Indian companies, we would not get any royalty if we do not get patent protection. We took the risk of giving our technology to Indian companies keeping the interest of patients in mind. We could have insisted on royalty even if we lost the case,” Gilead’s senior vice president and general counsel Gregg Alton told ET.

The hearing at the patent office, initially scheduled for Tuesday, has been postponed for a few days on technical grounds. “We are confident that we would get patent for Viread which has patent protection in 30 other countries including the US,” he said. “If we are granted a patent, there would be no change in the agreement with Indian companies.

They can continue to sell the drug in India and in 95 other countries for a 5% royalty. They are also free to make different dosage forms and combinations of the drug,” he said.

The agreement is valid till the life of the patent (20 years from grant of patent), after which the partners need not give any royalty.

To many, Gilead’s strategy of not demanding royalty if it fails to get a patent looks risky. In fact, the company was responsible for forcing Cipla to lower the price of its version of the drug by half (from about Rs 32,000 or $700) recently, by announcing non-exclusive manufacturing and marketing deals with the Indian companies.

“Cipla has already dropped the price 10 times since the drug was introduced in Indian market in 2000. With more manufacturers, the price would further drop noticeably,” Cipla joint MD Amar Lulla said.

Indian companies are expected to launch the generic version of Viread by the year end. There are about 50 lakh identified HIV patients in India, of which about 30 lakh are on treatment.


Social network for HIV/AIDS community

March 28, 2007 | By Minic Rivera | From, a social network for the HIV/AIDS community, was launched to serve as place of free dialogue for people with HIV/AIDS, AIDS services organizations, community based organizations, researchers, among others.

“My goal is to create an environment of comfort, and deepen the social interaction between clients and the various organizations and individuals that seek to support them,” Stephan Adelson, founder of the nonprofit project, said.

There are three types of membership available on the site. One profile type is for those that are HIV-positive, a second for organizations, and a third for friends and family members. To ensure the privacy and comfort, HIV-positive members family and friend profiles do not have access to the HIV-positive community. includes a place for member profiles while offering a comprehensive library with topics related to HIV/AIDS.

Long term survivors of HIV/AIDS are becoming isolated environments, where medication and mutations of the virus are creating distinctive responses in individuals. Their doctors often face unique situations, yet sharing these experiences is often difficult and time prohibitive. provides a place for authentic communication while ensuring the privacy of the individual. To further assure privacy, no identifying personal information such as name or address is collected.


Lifeboat: A Woman’s Guide to HIV-Positive Motherhood

Andrea Lynch, RH Reality Check, Nicaragua & England on February 26, 2007 – 8:50am

Published under: |

There are 19 million women worldwide currently living with HIV/AIDS, but living with HIV is just one aspect of these women’s lives. Reproductive rights organizations like Ipas and HIV/AIDS advocacy organizations like the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS have been working for years to raise awareness of the complexity of HIV-positive women’s sexual and reproductive realities, and a new project called Lifeboat offers a unique space to challenge stereotypes about HIV-positive women’s lives. Specifically, Lifeboat seeks to shed light on the reality of HIV-positive motherhood, using film to present compelling, complex images of mothers living with HIV/AIDS.

According to UNAIDS, of the 200 million women who become pregnant every year, roughly 2.5 million are HIV-positive. In some countries in southern Africa, where the pandemic is most widespread, over a third of pregnant women are living with HIV/AIDS. Across the developing world, HIV-positive women—like all women—struggle to find dignity amidst pervasive violations of their sexual and reproductive rights. And despite strong anti-discrimination laws and decades of awareness-raising, here in the United States, HIV-positive pregnant women continue to face discrimination within the health system, as Scott Swenson reported earlier this month.

The obstacles to achieving health, dignity, and well-being faced by HIV-positive women worldwide are formidable to say the least, but that is only part of these women’s stories. All over the world, HIV-positive women continue to grow, live, and contribute to their communities and their families. By sharing these women’s stories through short films, Lifeboat seeks to shatter the stigma and the stereotypes surrounding HIV/AIDS, sex, pregnancy, and motherhood, focusing instead on “the human experiences of wanting, having, loving, and raising children in a positive home.” For example, “Lullaby” features two teenagers talking about the loving, happy childhood that their HIV-positive mother has given them. “True Love” focuses on a Nigerian couple coming to grips with the knowledge that they are both HIV-positive, and that they are expecting a child. Both films have been screened at numerous conferences on HIV/AIDS, as well as in communities and healthcare settings. They will soon be available online. For more information, visit Lifeboat.


Readers remember the early years of AIDS

Those touched by the virus share memories of the struggle and the stigma

Visit the whole article.

Behind every AIDS death is a story. Behind each statistic is a person who is loved, who was someone’s brother, mother, father, sister, aunt, uncle, friend, grandparent or lover.

On the 25th anniversary of AIDS, readers share their memories. Some have survived being HIV positive for decades and recall the fear born of ignorance by those around them.

Others are left to remember those who died, from young men taken by a disease then called GRID (Gay Related Immune Deficiency) to a 58-year-old grandmother who died following heart surgery, to a daughter wondering what life might have been like if her father had lived to see her into adulthood…

Here are their memories, in their words:

This is my 25th year living with HIV/AIDS. Those early years were like living in a one-man concentration camp, with my own body as the jailer and executioner. I have held 16 men in my arms as they took their last breaths, I have been told six times that I would not live 6 months.

How do I put into words the devastation that this pandemic has racked through my life? I have been through all of the regimes of medicine, sometimes the treatment was much worse than the disease. Many of my friends have come to say goodbye to me several times. Yet I’m still alive and live well today. I have literally had to change every thought I’ve ever had about everything to survive. There is not enough space here to share all that HIV/AIDS has brought into my life, from the deepest grief and depression to the highest expression of my personal faith.

Everett, Santa Monica, Calif.

As a nurse, AIDS has had a huge impact on my life. During the early years, I lost a lot of patients. I was terrified of the disease, the unknown. Over the years, I went to AIDS conferences and got a lot of education about the disease. I became an AIDS counselor and realized just how devastating and horrible this disease is. A few years ago, a patient I had counseled who was HIV positive came into my office, shut the door and sobbed like a baby. He couldn’t breathe well and he was afraid. All of a sudden, as I held him, I realized this was the worst disease the world has ever known. He has since died.

— Trunell, Amarillo, Texas

My dad was a hemophiliac who contracted HIV/AIDS through the blood products that he used to stop his bleeding. He was devastated. At that time, it was a death sentence. When he disclosed it to his co-workers he was treated like a leper. Our neighbor was so afraid of him, she had to get counseling. (She made sure to let us know this.) She came over to our house one time, stating it was an assignment from her therapist to “confront her fear,” and asked me to hug and kiss my dad in front of her to prove I wasn’t afraid of him. I was so angry at her and others in our community for prioritizing their fears without trying to understand our fears. My dad lived with HIV/AIDS for 12 years, and his mission was to educate people that they needn’t be afraid of him. In fact, he was more afraid of them — afraid of catching colds or infections from them that could literally kill him. He passed away in 1998.

— TJ

My mother was a nurse at an Alameda County (Calif.) Hospital that had an AIDS ward in the early ’80s. I was 12 when I met an AIDS patient. He came up from behind me and said, “excuse me” in a deep voice, when I turned around, I saw a very tall skeleton. This prompted a series of very open discussions on AIDS (some were still calling it GRID) and safe-sex practices. My mother told me way back then that not only gay people get AIDS like everyone was saying, that AIDS is in the blood, so anyone can get it.

Soon after, the first heterosexual came to the AIDS ward, she was a wife and a mother. The AIDS infected her brain or nervous system, something like that, and I remembering talking to her once. She kind of broke down, crying and telling me about her regrets. It was very sad and a lot for 12 or 13-year-old to take in. However, these experiences and my mothers openness insured my condom use throughout my teen years and early 20s up until I got married.

— Rick, Sisseton, S.D.

I remember the fear. My beloved cousin had come out of the closet and moved to Houston, where he contracted AIDS. At his funeral, there was a beautiful black man with blue eyes standing in the foyer with tears dripping down his face. I introduced myself and asked if he was all right. His reply? “I’m just so tired of going to funerals.” I understood, a little better anyway, of the personal toll this damned disease takes on everyone who has a soul.

— Claire, Beeville, Texas

When I was 13 years old, in 1993, my father died of AIDS. This year I have lived 13 years of my life without him. I often wonder what my relationship with him would be like now, as an adult, but the memories from my childhood years with him are good ones. I told him before he died that I thought he was the bravest man I would ever know because of what he suffered. He still is.

— Lindsay
(more testimonies available in the full article)


HIV-Positive Women Activists in Latin America Stand Tall

by Diego Cevallos
MEXICO CITY, May 11 (IPS) – Patricia Pérez, an activist from Argentina who was diagnosed HIV-positive in 1986, has been nominated for the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize for her activism on behalf of women living with the AIDS virus. But her case is an exception to the rule.

Most Latin American women who contract HIV hide their status for fear of rejection, or experience veiled or open discrimination. And the number of HIV-positive women is rising sharply.

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), three years ago there were seven or eight men with HIV/AIDS in Latin America for every woman with the virus. But today the ratio is three to one.

Pérez, the regional representative of the non-governmental International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS in Latin America (ICW Latina), has raised her voice, like other activists, to warn about the increasing feminisation of the AIDS pandemic.

But above all these women advocate the right of women living with HIV/AIDS to speak out freely and without fear.

“I never thought that 20 years after being diagnosed with HIV, I would be nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. But this is a recognition of the work of all of us,” said Pérez in Mexico, before a mainly female audience who applauded enthusiastically.

Pérez, who is on familiar terms with government authorities and United Nations officials, is taking part in a meeting of 25 leaders and HIV-positive women activists from several countries being held in Mexico from Tuesday to Friday.

The participants are discussing possible strategies for the 17th International AIDS Conference, which will be held in Mexico in August 2008…

Read the rest of this article at