The June 2016 Through Positive Eyes workshop in Durban—epicenter of South Africa’s AIDS epidemic in the province of KwaZulu-Natal—attests to the uneven progress toward curbing HIV and AIDS in the country with the highest number of cases in the world. In 2016, 19% of South African adults between the ages of fifteen and forty-nine were HIV-positive. In KwaZulu-Natal, the percentage was even higher: 30%. In response, massive efforts have been made to bring KwaZulu-Natal’s epidemic under control. In Durban in 2016, for example, 89% of the 621,000 individuals infected with HIV were already receiving antiretroviral treatment. Leaving statistics aside, the participants in the Durban workshop demonstrated through their stories that too many young people, especially young women, are becoming infected with HIV at the very start of their sexual lives. This revelation underlines the need for gender-sensitive early sexual health education and intervention, not only in South Africa but around the world.

Durban’s AIDS Epidemic, as of 2016

Number of people living with HIV
621,000 (8.2% of all South Africans living with HIV)

HIV Prevalence

Adults (15–49 years)
22.6%
Female sex workers
53.5%
Men who have sex with men
48.2%

Treatment

% of people living with HIV who know their HIV status
74%
% of those needing treatment who are receiving it
89%
% of those with undetectable viral load
67%

Two Conferences

Two international AIDS conferences have been held in Durban. In 2000, treatment activists demonstrated in the street against the HIV denialism of South African president Thabo Mbeki. By the time of the 2016 conference, South Africa had the largest treatment program in the world, with 3.4 million people receiving free antiretroviral therapy, largely in the public sector.

Elizabeth

Elizabeth

I’m an outgoing person. I love ice cream. I love to dress up. I love high heels. I love to dance. And I am HIV-positive. At birth I was taken away from my mother, due to the fact she was mentally u …

Jennifer

Jennifer

I was a beautiful young girl with a charming smile. All the men loved me. When I was nineteen, I had a strange feeling in my wrist. I went to the clinic to get treatment and the doctor told me that I …

Sanele

Sanele

I’m a Zulu man from a rural area of KwaZulu-Natal. You can’t be a real man in our culture without having more than one girlfriend. In general, being a man means having lots of children and not loo …

Silungile (Gogo)

Silungile (Gogo)

I am a traditional healer. I am a mother and grandmother. I am an HIV and AIDS human rights activist. I work with young people and that’s where my passion is, especially for young girls. When I t …

Simiso

Simiso

Prior to actually finding out about my status, I was riding on the assumption that HIV is for old people. I looked at it as something far away from me. It was never even close to crossing my mind. I …

Thulile

Thulile

I was born with the virus. I have been living with it for about twenty-five years now. I am strong. I am beautiful. I am a positive woman, in all senses of that word. And I won’t let anyone d …

Xolisile

Xolisile

I was born and raised in Lindelani, a village in KwaZulu-Natal, by my grandma and my granddad. Due to the absence of my parents, I grew up in a dysfunctional family. I knew I wanted to finish school, …

Yvonne

Yvonne

When I started working as a volunteer, and then as a cleaner, for the Gugu Dlamini Foundation, I was scared, because I knew the story about what had happened to her. In 1998, a young South African …

Supporters

Through Positive Eyes in Durban was organized in partnership with the AIDS Foundation of South Africa. Major funding was provided by The Herb Ritts Foundation, with additional support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, Electronic Theatre Controls (ETC), The Ford Foundation, Gere Foundation, UNAIDS, and UCLA.