We’ve been advocating for a cure to HIV/AIDS for 35+ years, and to bring awareness to the conversation this year, we asked author, mentor and spokesperson Ndaba Mandela to discuss his work to end the epidemic years after the passing of his grandfather Nelson Mandela.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR MISSION IN LIFE.
Growing up and having been raised by my grandfather, I was instilled at a very early age with the importance of contributing to your community. I started my foundation, the Mandela Institute for Humanity to contribute back to my community, country and the broader continent of Africa. Our aim is to build upon the legacy of my grandfather by empowering the next generation of Africans and fighting for the end of HIV/AIDS.
My main focus right now is on the fight against HIV/AIDs, a disease that ravaged my country and took the lives of both my parents. In 2005, my grandfather publicly acknowledged the disease and the passing of my father and thus made a call to action to the world to end this epidemic. I believe it is my duty to continue my grandfather’s message but also act upon it. So, my new foundation is working to contribute to eradicating HIV/AIDS by personally committing to reduce new HIV infections by 25% and also reduce AIDS related deaths by 25% by 2021. We will also work alongside existing organizations fighting HIV/AIDS to ensure that the 2030 goals of eradication are met.
WHAT DON’T PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT THE HIV/AIDS EPIDEMIC?
We are fighting an epidemic that is currently affecting 6,000 people per day. South Africa has the largest HIV epidemic in the world, with 7.1 million people living with HIV. In 2018, there were 240,000 new HIV infections with a total of 71,000 South Africans dying from AIDS-related illnesses.
In 2014, the United Nations set bold new targets, calling on the global community to ensure that by 2020: 90% of all people living with HIV will know their HIV status, 90% of all people diagnosed with HIV will receive sustained antiretroviral therapy and 90% of all people receiving antiretroviral therapy will have durable viral suppression.
A major problem and implication in this fight is that only 62% of people living with HIV in Southern Africa know their status. Because of the inability to easily access HIV/AIDS testing kits and the harsh stigmas on the disease, people are not getting tested. People are dying in silence and isolation. The Mandela Institute’s focus will be to ensure that we can get testing kits in all those that need them and to start changing the narrative on the disease.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACHIEVE BY SHARING YOUR STORY WITH THE WORLD?
I hope that my current work is a wake up call. In order to make change we need to know the facts to start taking the right set of actions. I want to help share with the world that state of HIV/AIDS and start developing a model for how we can achieve real progress and bridge the gaps that exist today.
I also realize I can’t do this alone. I need strong partners, volunteers, and funders who can help achieve our big goals.
Taking on a big challenge that you know you can't do alone requires courage. My grandfather said, “Courage is not the absence of fear. It's doing the right thing even if you have fear.” Whether we fail or succeed, we have to do what we believe and know is right.
DO YOU HAVE A PERSONAL MOTTO THAT YOU LIVE BY?
“Inspire, unite, build.” a motto I live by. Ubuntu “I am because we are,” a philosophy I live by that means all humanity is inherently connected; “The time is always right to do right” from my grandfather.