Dira Sengwe (take action) is a South African based NGO that was established in 2002 by the members of the local organizing committee of the groundbreaking XIIIth International AIDS Conference held in Durban in 2000. The 2000 Conference still remains the largest AIDS Conference ever held in Africa and is acknowledged as the turning point in the struggle to ensure affordable AIDS treatment. Following the international awareness generated by the more than 2000 journalists who attended the 2000 Conference, successful pressure was exerted on the pharmaceutical industry to dramatically reduce the cost of AIDS treatment and an international movement was begun to secure donor support for treatment in Africa. This eventually led to the establishment of the PEPFAR Programme and the Global Fund.
Dira Sengwe was established with the specific purpose of overcoming unequal access to information in the world by using scientific and social conferences as a tool to impart knowledge on the subject to South Africans, Africans and colleagues from other developing countries, as well as to increase advocacy to advance the cause of AIDS treatment and prevention in Southern Africa particularly. Dira Sengwe has not restricted itself to a reductionist philosophy of treatment alone, but includes the need to galvanise society around a comprehensive approach to the epidemic which emphasises prevention, care and rehabilitation.
Dira Sengwe is the custodian of the South African AIDS Conference (a biennial event) that helps shape the South African AIDS response. The 1st South African AIDS Conference was held in 2003 and the 6th took place in June 2013. This series of superb biennial conferences draw substantial participation from more than 4000 individuals from multiple disciplines and from both professional and non-professional groups. Past and present chairpersons of the Conference have included; Prof Hoosen Coovadia, Prof Lynn Morris, Prof Olive Shisana, Prof Lida Gail Bekker, Prof Francios Venter and Prof Koleka Mlisana.
Dira Sengwe also supports and organises international AIDS conferences in South Africa and organised the 5th IAS Conference on HIV Pathogenesis, Treatment and Care attended by 7000 delegates in 2009 and the 17th International Conference on AIDS and STIs in Africa that took place in December 2013. Additionally, Dira Sengwe played a pivotal role in ensuring that the International AIDS Conference (that has now grown to an event attended by 25 000 delegates) shall return to South Africa in 2016. Dira Sengwe awards the AIDS Leadership Award on a bi-annual basis (since 2011) that seeks to recognise and acknowledge key leaders and organisations in the field. Nomination and selection as a finalist by Dira Sengwe is in itself recognition of the extraordinary contribution made by individuals and organisations in the fight against AIDS.
Dira Sengwe is a not-for-profit organisation and all its members serve on a voluntary basis. The proceeds of the conference is used to support a large scholarship programme at the SA AIDS Conference with between 500 and 1000 delegates receiving scholarships and ensuring free exhibition space for NGOs and CBOs.