HIV, Aids activist receives human rights award

Source: HIV, Aids activist receives human rights award – NewsDay Zimbabwe July 20, 2016

Zimbabwean HIV and Aids activist Martha Tholanah has been presented with the Elizabeth Taylor Human Rights Award for her outstanding work in championing for the rights of people living with the disease.

By Phyllis Mbanje

The presentation was made at the opening session of the International Aids Conference in Durban, South Africa, on Monday.

Tholanah, who has become one of the most recognisable, effective, and influential advocates for human rights in Zimbabwe and all over Southern Africa, was handed the accolade by South African actress and Hollywood Oscar winner Charlize Theron, who is also a committed human rights activist and HIV advocate.

Trained as a family therapy counsellor, Tholanah has established and led health-related programmes for communities that have often been left behind or scorned by traditional health services.

A leading advocate for the informed involvement of people affected by HIV in ethical, patient-focused research and outreach, Tholanah is credited with ensuring that Zimbabwe’s National Aids Council now includes lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in their programming.

She has also led health-related programmes for organisations such as the Network of Zimbabwean Positive Women (NZPW+), Gays and Lesbians of Zimbabwe (GALZ), International Community of Women Living with HIV in Southern Africa, Women and Aids Support Network (WASN), Women’s Action Group (WAG), and many others.

Martha Tholanah’s work on behalf of women, people living with HIV and LGBT people has not been easy, nor has it come without personal cost.

For her efforts to protect human rights, and prevent injustices such as forced sterilisation, Tholanah has and continues to face incarceration and legal sanctions in Zimbabwe. But she has also inspired others to take up the fight, and in doing so she continues to leave her mark not only on Zimbabwe, but also on the entire world.

“Elizabeth Taylor was a bold example of what one person can achieve when they are willing to speak up for the rights of others,” Theron said.

“Today, Elizabeth’s grandchildren are carrying on her work in the global movement to end HIV through the #GenEndIt campaign. Anyone who is familiar with Elizabeth’s work as a tireless and daring advocate, fundraiser, and human rights champion, knows why this honour was named for her, and why Martha Tholanah is so worthy of this recognition.”