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Woman leading change in South Africa's battle against HIV

 

When Maureen Van Wyk joined Networking HIV, Aids Community of South Africa (Nacosa) in 2005, it was a small operation with a handful of staff operating on a limited budget within the Western Cape. Under her leadership, Nacosa has grown into a major player in the HIV/AIDS and TB field with a national network of 1 500 organisations, over 70 staff and channels resources to deliver services on the ground in all nine provinces.

"I've worked in government and I've worked at a university and I¿ve chosen to work in civil society because of the dynamic nature of it, the engagement and interaction with issues," says Van Wyk when asked why she has chosen to work within civil society for so long. "Unlike in government, there is not much bureaucracy and one can really make a difference and actually see the difference that one makes."

Van Wyk, who has a PhD in social development from the University of Pretoria, has noticed a sea of change in the sector over the last ten years: "It has become more professional and more accountable because donors expect to see value for their money. In the past, many organisations were funded without clear deliverables but now the scenario has changed. Many NGOs have gone under but others have grown."

HIV RESPONSE

"The HIV response has grown tremendously," says Van Wyk. "Ten years ago was just the beginning of [anti-retroviral] treatment in South Africa and today we have the largest treatment programme in the world. The knowledge and information we had back then was very limited whereas today we have a fantastic multi-sectoral HIV response in the country in terms of prevention, treatment, care and human rights."

The fruits of this coordinated response are being realised with declining incidence rates, increased life expectancy and a dramatic reduction in mother-to-child HIV transmission.

The burgeoning HIV response is mirrored by Nacosa¿s own growth. "I think my greatest achievement is building Nacosa from a small Western Cape-focused organisation to an organisation that significantly participates and impacts on the HIV response in the country,¿ Van Wyk reflects. "We now work in all provinces and thousands of people at grassroots level benefit from the funding that we manage."

As Principal Recipient for the Global Fund alone, Nacosa has channelled over $60 million (R788-million) to community organisations across the country, achieving an A1 rating ¿ the highest ¿ for the duration of Phase I of the grant.

CHALLENGES

But growth and success hasn¿t come without its challenges, the biggest of which has been accessing sustainable and consistent funding from local donors. "If you look at the funding scenario right now, you will find that the HIV response is largely funded by international donors. We would have liked more funding to come from local donors and government."

Funding and resource issues are by far the biggest
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