SIYAYIFUNA — “We Want,” is the name of an advocacy group that has been launched to campaign for research to find ways for a truly female HIV prevention method.
The campaign has its roots in work done by the Centre for Aids Programme of Research in South Africa in which a preliminary study revealed that the Tenofovir gel could reduce the risk of HIV infection by 39% and by 59% if used consistently.
However, due to delays in registration by the Medical Controls Council, the gel has not been made available to the women who took part in the experiment.
Earlier this year the women who took part in the experiment and supporters held a protest march in Pietermaritzburg demanding the gel.
When the registration to make the gel available to the women eventually came through, the batch that had been prepared had reached its expiry date. Now the women are demanding that more needs to be done not only for them but to speed up the process so that the gel can be made more widely available to women.
The campaign is also going to push for more research to find effective ways whereby women can take control of their own HIV prevention.
Over 600 women in the Vulindlela area, who took part in the initial Tenofovir gel trial, held a celebration at Mafakatini on Friday. They spoke about how the gel had changed their lives, as for once they were in charge and did not have to depend on men using condoms or on getting circumcised — two of the ways that have been found to be effective in HIV prevention.
The women said it was difficult in rural situations to tell men what to do, whereas with the gel they could use it quietly and it was a way of taking control of their own bodies and lives.
Gethwana Mahlase, who is spearheading the Siyayifuna campaign, has already enlisted the services of the province’s first lady, Dr May Mkhize-Mashego. Both women were at the gathering in Mafakatini to tell the women about the campaign. Mahlase said they would be collecting signatures for a petition to send to the MCC and they would be enlisting other women throughout the province to get involved with the campaign. “We are going to use every possible platform to get women involved and sensitise them about the urgent need for a truly female- controlled HIV prevention method,” said Mahlase.