Shining a light into a dark place
A number of people have over the years played a role in the development of the TAC and our battle for antiretrovirals. There are too many to mention. In the following pages a small group of people who played a role in one way or another and represent various constituencies, share their recollections of the past and their dreams for the future.
Sometimes it’s hard to believe what a dark place AIDS once was, or how we rose together to shine a light on HIV and bring it out of the shadows.
As I reflect back, I think most often of the people who didn’t make it. I think of Sarah Hlalele. When I first met Sarah she was crying uncontrollably, crouching on the floor of the house of a relative in Sharpeville, where she was made to eat food from a saucepan because her relatives didn’t want her to eat from any of their plates. I think of what a proud woman she became when she joined the famous TAC case to tell her story in an affidavit; how she grew in bravery and confidence, able to stand outside court and speak to the media, a voice for many thousands more women like herself.
I think of Charlene Wilson, who seemed indestructible but who I watched die, tears in her eyes.
I think of how the energetic poet Edward Mabunda passed away in Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, felled by a virus that should not have killed him, if he had access to treatment.
But as much as thinking back recalls sorrow and loss, it also conjures up bravery and the best of the human spirit; brave nurses like Sister Sue Roberts, brave young women like Vuyiseka Dubula and Hazel Tau, pioneering researchers like Glenda Gray and Quarraisha Abdool Karim, the few brave political leaders like Nelson Mandela.
There are too many heroes in this struggle to name. It has been a hard battle but my life has been enriched by the people I have fought alongside. It has brought me up close to the best of human beings and shown that solidarity and sympathy, not selfishness and greed, are at the core of humanity – if only we can set it free.
We need to think back on these 10 years to inspire leadership for the next 10 years, until we have finally conquered not only HIV, but the inequalities and injustice that helped its spread then, and continue to do so today.