Dira Sengwe Leadership Awards


The Dira Sengwe Board decided to institute this Leadership Award in order to recognize exceptional contributions by individuals or organizations in the country in the response to the HIV epidemic. It is quite clear to us that there are numerous persons and groups doing excellent work in a difficult field often under challenging circumstances, most of then unknown to their country and unrewarded.

Once again we wish to offer an opportunity to these unheralded people to tell their peers and their fellow South Africans how they made a contributions so that their expectations can become lessons and their courage or determination an inspiration to others. Our view is that the country suffers from a serious crisis in the absence of a sufficient number if individuals to serve as guides, as ethical beacons and leaders,whom the young can emulate.

Leadership in many walks of life and in massive number of public and private institutions, is dreadfully scarce. We have therefore, by this tiny effort, tried to encourage leaders of the future through this award.

Prof. Jerry Coovadia

Chairperson: Dira Sengwe

Make your leadership contribution count!

Have you or someone within your organisation, NGO or CBO made an extraordinary contribution in the fight against HIV/AIDS? This may include activities related to human rights, treatment, research and development, and access to care for people living with HIV/AIDS.

The DIRA SENGWE LEADERSHIP IN AIDS AWARD 2013 will celebrate an individual's exceptional contribution to HIV/AIDS initiatives. Enter with an essay of 300 words or less, explaining your efforts in the fight against HIV/ AIDS and you could win R75 000 cash.

The winner will be announced at the opening session of the 6th SA AIDS Conference in Durban from 18 – 21 June 2013.

The successful candidate will be celebrated for their leadership and contribution to the fight against HIV/ AIDS epidemic in South Africa, and for being an ethical beacon who guides and inspires their fellow South Africans. If you are or know someone who is such a person we want to hear from you.


Click here to view the of the 2011 entrants profile

The 2011 Winners

Flora Thobela

Flora Thabela

On 23rd September 1992, Flora Thobela sat patiently in the Hamabanathi antenatal clinic. The results she received would change the trajectory of her life.

“Flora, you are HIV+”..... “Uyazi Ingeulaza ayilapheki. You will get sick sometime and die. Should the baby be born HIV+ he will not live beyond 5”. This was the time where there was no hope, no treatment and HIV was not spoken about. Flora did not let this stop her.

Flora and her 2 children (Luyanda and Babalwa) moved to Cape Town 5 years later. Luyanda’s health was deteriorating and Flora soon contracted TB and became very unwell. Flora was determined not to let HIV beat them.

1st December 2000 marked a turning point. Flora was elected to speak at a World AIDS Day event. She felt nervous and afraid but despite these feelings, live on national television, Flora announced: “I am Flora, and I am living with HIV!” Her journey of living openly with HIV had begun. Nothing prepared her for the stigma and discrimination she and her family faced. Despite it all, they stood together.

Through her bravery of disclosing her status, Flora met Dr Catherine Orrell of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation (DTHF). In 2001 Dr Orrell commenced Flora on antiretrovirals via clinical trials. As Flora became physically stronger her spirit simultaneously got stronger too. “Every HIV+ patient needs a strong spirit like mine...If you are HIV+ you are unheard...you have to fight to be heard”.

Flora has never given up, despite very poor health and stigmatization. Flora has raised two wonderful children; Luyanda, through his mothers example being a powerful young activist himself. As a counsellor at DTHF, Flora continues to impart her knowledge, compassion, spirit and hope and inspires others to carry on and fight HIV as she has.

Anne Leon

anne_leonWhen I was diagnosed HIV-positive 16 years ago most people thought HIV only infected gays, black people and women of ill repute. But as a middle-class white woman, I didn’t fall into any of these categories.
I participated in an ARV trial, but couldn’t take the follow-up companion drugs due to liver enlargement. Instead, I followed a healthy lifestyle and cared for my immune system. But when my CD4 count dropped below 160, I needed to go back onto ARVs, but couldn’t afford them as I was unemployed. So I developed a presentation called “Living Positively with HIV and AIDS”, which I took to schools and church groups. The response was very positive, and I then started running workshops in industry as well.
Despite the suffering I have experienced, including ovarian cancer and a mastectomy, I feel God has truly blessed me. I have had overwhelming support e.g. a Molweni congregation felt my message was so important that they donated R800 for ARVs for 7 months until I was accepted on a government ARV programme; a client company bought me a second-hand car to save me using public transport to get to presentations.
As well as motivational talks and counselling, I assist various NGOs involved in HIV and AIDS e.g. with feeding programmes, collecting second-hand clothes and selling beadwork made by women in Molweni.
I have been the face of HIV on many posters and was named “Hero of the year” in 2010 by O Magazine, as well as the SA AIDS Consortium.
My husband Trevor and I often counsel couples in a similar situation to ours. We have told our story in many magazines and newspapers, and on radio and TV. Our aim is to de-stigmatise HIV and AIDS and spread a message of hope.

The Award

Leadership awards 1
2011 Dira Sengwe Leadership Award Winners trophy