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.

Make your leadership contribution count!

Prof. Jerry Coovadia
Chairperson: Dira Sengwe

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 2017 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 R80 000 cash.

The winner will be announced at the opening session of the 8th SA AIDS Conference in Durban from 13-15 June 2017.

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.

The 2015 Winners

Paul Matthew

Paul Matthew is the Regional Director of North Star Alliance, Southern Africa and is the driving force behind the success of the organisation. He has worked in the education and health sectors for over 20 years.

Whilst CEO of the Road Freight Industry  Training Board, Matthew together  with  employer and employee groups established the Trucking Against AIDS programme which was taken up by the road freight industry and became a model of  health  service delivery  for  long  distance truck  drivers  in  South Africa and the establishment of 17 roadside clinics to address the alarming impact of HIV and AIDS on mobile workers. It also led to the creation of North Star Alliance in 2006 and the establishment of its first Roadside Wellness Centre at Mwanza, Malawi.

Lumka (Lulu) Mtwisha

Sister Lulu Mtwisha was formerly Assistant Director in Operating Theatres at Groote Schuur Hospital. When she retired in 2000 Dr Linda-Gail Bekker, Deputy Director Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, invited her to train a group of women to become HIV counsellors.  The women called themselves, Sizophila (we will survive).  They had received a second chance at life as a result of our  early  treatment  efforts  and  wanted  to  give  hope  to  their  community.    Lulu’s  training methodology became the model for the roll-out of counselling and testing throughout the Western Cape  Province  and  the  country.  Under  Lulu’s  guidance  adherence  rates  at  the  Gugulethu treatment centre have consistently been around 94-96%.

Lulu is a remarkable trainer.   Her passion to promote health is infectious and her audience is captivated.   She was the obvious choice to lead the field team in the Family Planning Integration into HIV Care and Treatment Services project launched in September 2012.

The 2013 Winners

Debbie Glencross

Dr Debbie Glencross is a consultant haematologist in the Department of Molecular Medicine and Haematology at the University of Witwatersrand and the National Health Laboratory Services (NHLS).

Dr Glencross developed and refined an innovative technology for the enumeration of CD4 cells called pan-leucogating (PLG).  In addition she was instrumental

in establishing a collaborative website called AffordCD4 which provides a critical review and analysis of new CD4 technologies.  Dr Glencross has links with prestigious international researchers and programmes including the group headed by Dr George Janossy at the Royal Free and University College Medical School in London.

Patience Koloko

Patience has played a big role during a time when it was taboo to talk about sex especially to children. She made her voice heard and clear to the school children and to the companies around us. It was bad when she went outside the area that she stays in. When she was telling them about AIDS, it was said that she was recruiting for the ANC.

The interest in this started in 1986 after seeing people dying of AIDS. She attended meetings of all sorts in churches though she was not allowed to talk AIDS, she continued distributing condoms and used to leave them where people could have an easy access.

The use of condoms and advice on nutrition and the importance of a vegetable garden at home are all stressed to clients. People are encouraged to plant 20 primary healthcare indigenous herbs around their homes.

Debbie Matthews at AIDS Foundation South Africa in Musgrave road Durban has helped Patience Koloko with stationery and transportation money from 1994. Patience Koloko still takes care of people with HIV/AIDS and does the referrals to the clinics and private doctors if there is a need.

The 2011 Winners

Flora Thobela

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

When 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.