Iranti’s farewell to
12 July 2017, South Africa
Iranti mourns the loss of a South African hero, Prudence Mabele, who passed away on Monday 10 July. We extend our heartfelt condolences to her family, and all those who have been touched by the courageous work she has undertaken for two and a half decades.
In 1992, Mabele became the first black woman to reveal her HIV status, and went on to become the President of The Society for Women and AIDS. Her search for support and other women like her in the early 90s remained a challenge, so in 1996 along with five other women, Mabele founded the Positive Women’s Network to bring women living with HIV/AIDS together and create a stigma-free environment for those living with HIV.
It was a time when HIV/AIDS was poorly understood and the average cost of Anti-Retroviral (ARV) drugs stood at R7000 per month – well out of reach for many South Africans. The work of Mabele and activists like her helped bring the cost down and today ARVs are free to the public. This angered many of South Africa’s traditional healers who marched against Mabele’s Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) in 2004. Though Mabele refused to budge.
A sangoma herself, Mabele understood the delicate intersections of tradition and modern medicine, but maintained that seeing so many HIV positive South Africans die gave her the will to live and fight for affordable, effective medicine.
In 2004 Mabele was also selected to help carry the Olympic flame in Greece in honour of her ongoing work in the South African healthcare sector and advocacy for persons living with HIV/AIDS.
A lifelong feminist, Mabele also acted as a prime driver of the Bring Back Our Girls South Africa campaign and her humanitarian work touched countless lives and saved millions. The humanitarian activism community has lost not only one of our most resilient comrades, but a dearly beloved sister.
Taken at only 47 years old, it is up to all of us to continue her work toward the protection and advancement of human dignity for those most vulnerable in our society. And as we mourn, let us remember also the triumphs, the resilience and energy of a life lived in service to others.
Iranti hereby dedicates its service and support to those who are affected by the passing of this icon.
Rest in power, Prudence, you will not be forgotten.