Sonke Gender Justice mourns the loss of AIDS activist Prudence Mabele

Today Sonke Gender Justice pays its respects to Prudence Mabele, a fallen giant of the global AIDS movement. We are profoundly saddened by the news of her passing from complications relating to tuberculosis at the age of 46.

Prudence discovered she was HIV positive when she was 18 years old. She chose not to hide her status, and in 1992 she became the first black woman living with HIV to reveal her status in South Africa.

She said she disclosed her status because she was tired of the silence and stigma surrounding HIV. She wanted to set a precedent and encourage other women living with HIV to discuss their status with loved ones, to live without shame, to seek treatment and to lead happy and fulfilled lives. That decision marked the start of the unique and powerful role Prudence would play in AIDS politics in South Africa.

That public role did not come without hardship and in 1996 she founded the Positive Women’s Network (PWN) to support other women to come to terms with their status. Two years later she became a founding member of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), where she joined the fight for universal access to antiretroviral treatment.

Vuyiseka Dubula, Programmes Director, Sonke Gender Justice and previously TAC General Secretary was inspired by the activist’s powerful life: “Prudence was an energetic activist who led many of our early 2000 treatment access marches. When most leading activists were nervous to be associated with the militant movement, she stood with us.”

Prudence was also the President for the Society for Women and Aids in Africa and the Deputy Chair of the Civil Society Sector in the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), a position she held until her final days.

To Prudence’s friends, comrades and family we send our deepest condolences for your loss. The world mourns with you.



Karen Robertson, Communications and Strategic Information Manager, Sonke Gender Justice,, 021 423 7088