One of the world’s most foreknown cosmetics companies has partnered with the White House. The M.A.C. AIDS Fund, founded by M·A·C Cosmetics in 1994 to support men, women and children affected by HIV/AIDS globally, recently announced it will work with the U.S. Department of State, headed by Hillary Clinton, to expand care for survivors of rape and sexual assault in South Africa.
Under the new partnership, the two will work with the government of South Africa to help provide emergency medical services, counseling, and HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.
“The MAC AIDS Fund, the US Department of State Office of Global Women’s Issues and the Government of South Africa have joined forces in an innovative public-private partnership to combat sexual violence and HIV/AIDS in South Africa. This partnership is an example of the type of critical advance that is needed in the field of HIV prevention as we work to understand and address the key drivers of the epidemic including sexual violence,” explains Nancy Mahon of the MAC AIDS Fund. “The MAC AIDS Fund is a committed partner with the Government of South Africa and the Office of Global Women’s Issues at the U.S. Department of State on this important issue. The partnership will provide crucial services for South African survivors of sexual violence through the expansion of the country’s government-driven Thuthuzela Care Network Center. Located throughout the country, these emergency facilities provide survivors of rape and sexual violence with access to needed medical, legal, and psychological services, in addition to HIV testing, prevention, and treatment programs. The MAC AIDS Fund has committed $2 million to support the expansion of this program.”
South Africa’s high HIV prevalence leaves survivors of sexual violence at high risk of becoming infected with HIV/AIDS. And studies have shown that women living with HIV/AIDS are at higher risk of experiencing violence. This public-private initiative involves the Office of Global Women’s Issues at the Department of State, the M·A·C AIDS Fund, the USAID Regional Mission in South Africa, and the South African Government’s National Prosecuting Agency/Sexual Offensives and Community Affairs Unit. The M·A·C AIDS Fund’s contribution will leverage the $18.9 million, which the U.S. government has committed to the program thus far.
“At the MAC AIDS Fund, we are constantly asking ourselves how we can make the biggest difference for people at the greatest risk of infection and target our resources to address the key drivers of HIV in vulnerable populations,” says Mahon. “This partnership is a perfect example of a program through which we can have a significant impact on the epidemic in South Africa. Consider the facts about South Africa: South Africa is home to the largest number of people living with HIV in the world; with 5.6 million people infected; In South Africa, high rates of HIV infection are directly related to the frequency of sexual violence in the country. In fact, South Africa’s rate of sexual violence is higher, sadly, than any other country in the world; Approximately 48,000 rapes are reported in South Africa each year, but experts believe the actual number is closer to 400,000. Victims of sexual violence in South Africa are more likely to become HIV-infected, and South Africans with HIV are more likely to be victims of sexual violence.”
In 1999, The Thuthuzela Care Center was launched by the South African government, with the support of the U.S. government, to ensure that survivors of sexual violence, including women and children have access to services including HIV/AIDS testing, prevention and treatment programs. TCC is also supported by the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief in South Africa.
Mahon says she believes such efforts as this can truly make a difference in affecting change. “We believe this partnership will effectively combat the issue of sexual violence and HIV in South Africa by expanding a successful local model that we know works. The TCC model provides survivors of sexual violence with a safe place that they can go to access needed medical, legal, and psychosocial services including services to prevent HIV infection. With this partnership, we will be able to expand services for victims of sexual violence by both extending the operating hours of the existing centers and creating new centers,” she notes. “The Thuthuzela Care Centers also connect victims to legal advocates who can walk them through the process of pressing charges and accompany them to court if they like. The full support of the Government of South Africa’s National Prosecuting Authority is a critical component to the partnership because it ensures the government will enforce laws against sexual violence and empower victims to seek justice against their attackers.”
In all, the M·A·C AIDS Fund has donated more than $19.6 million USD to combat the HIV epidemic in South Africa, $6 million of which was directed to expanding access to prevention of mother to child transmission services. An additional $3 million has been committed to the South African Leadership Initiative in partnership with the Human Sciences Research Council, the Columbia University HIV Center, and the UCLA Center for Global Health, to build local South African leadership capacity in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
“Our hope,” adds Mahon, “is that through the success of this partnership, we may also encourage other private donors, corporations, and foundations to join us and the Department of State, with the participation of local governments worldwide, in our effort to combat the global issue of HIV/AIDS and sexual violence as a global community.”