South Africa and the entire HIV/AIDS community lost a dear friend, steadfast leader and advocate with the recent passing of Prudence Mabele.
Since discovering her HIV positive status in 1991, Prudence has been a fighter for women’s rights and access to HIV treatment. She was among the first black women in South Africa to speak openly about her status and to raise the issue of HIV among lesbians as far back as 1995.
Throughout the 1990s, she helped found the AIDS Consortium, which has grown to be one of the largest non-governmental organization networks in South Africa. She was also pivotal in establishing the Treatment Action Campaign, created to ensure communities throughout the country had access to lifesaving antiretroviral drugs. As a defender of women’s rights, she was a key leader in the One in Nine campaign—an anti-rape coalition—and an important voice in the fight for LGBT rights in South Africa.
In 1996, Prudence launched the Positive Women’s Network (PWN), an organization originally formed to ensure women had full access to HIV treatment and services. PWN continues to fight stigma and discrimination on behalf of all who are affected by HIV/AIDS, a challenge to which Prudence dedicated most of her life.
As a true pioneer for South African women and everyone affected by HIV/AIDS, she leaves behind a legacy of many people who were saved and had an opportunity to lead healthier, productive lives because she spoke out against discrimination and injustice. In 2004, Prudence was chosen as a torchbearer for the Olympics in Athens, Greece with the fitting theme “Pass the Flame, Unite the World.”
AIDS Healthcare Foundation offers its sincerest condolences to the Mabele family, the Positive Women’s Network and all those who were touched by Prudence’s courageous spirit. She will be loved and missed, and above all, appreciated for all she accomplished and for all she inspired.