South African Voices HIV Museum Launched at UKZN

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Guests, staff and students attended the launch of the South African Voices HIV Museum located at the Howard College campus library.

The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) HIV and AIDS Programme has launched a satellite of the popular SA Voices HIV Museum.

Located in the EG Malherbe Library Foyer at Howard College campus, the HIV-friendly, free, educational hub for UKZN students and staff was launched on the eve of this year’s South African AIDS Conference on 12 June.

SA Voices conveys to students and staff, the message that health and diseases like HIV and TB, are manageable and that relevant help is available at UKZN.

This edition of SA Voices is a partnership between the UKZN HIV and AIDS Programme and Info4africa, a Centre of the School of Applied Human Sciences at UKZN.

The project seeks to achieve the objective of the institutional response to the HIV pandemic in alignment with the South African National Strategic Plan (NSP) on HIV, TB and STIs (2017-2022) and the UNAIDS 90 90 90 strategy. It also aims to contribute towards curriculum integration and makes an effort to debunking the stigmatisation of HIV.

HIV and AIDS Programme Co-ordinator, Ms Nomonde Magantolo said the launch is part of one of the strategies towards achieving an AIDS-free generation by 2031. She thanked peer educators whom she said were instrumental in reducing HIV prevalence.

Project Director, Ms Debbie Heustice from Info4Africa thanked the library staff for opening their arms to the Centre and added that she is keen on sharing the exhibition with other campuses.

The exhibition consists of a number of zones covering HIV basics and science; stories of HIV Champions at UKZN and the wider South African society; reflections on lives lost to HIV; a timeline of HIV in South Africa; and innovative models for treatment, care and support.

The collection includes HIV-related artefacts on loan from the internationally acclaimed Phansi Museum in KwaZulu-Natal. It also includes a large mural by well-known local mural artist Wesley van Eeden, titled “What’s Driving HIV?”; memorial quilts; Hero Books and ME boxes created by children to mitigate the impact of HIV on their lives.

Curator Bren Brophy explains, ‘The visual arts have played a significant role over the decades in messaging the challenges and triumphs of the, often complex, cultural and social responses to the HIV pandemic.  The juxtaposition of science, art, society and culture within this collection make SA Voices a truly holistic visitor experience.’

The team has worked closely with staff and students from the UKZN Disability Support Unit, Tape Aids for the Blind and KZN Deaf Association so as to ensure that the museum accommodates people with disabilities.  Care has been taken to ensure that panels include easy-to-read text and braille translations have been created for every museum panel.  Tape Aids for the Blind donated its services  to create voice files for each of the stories of HIV Champions featured in the collection, ensuring that these inspiring stories are accessible to as wide an audience as possible.

Among the audience were UKZN’s Student Services Executive Director, Dr Rose Laka-Mathebula; Dean for Teaching and Learning at the College of Humanities, Professor Sinegugu Duma; Director of UKZN Library, Ms Joyce Myeza.

Students and staff have been very encouraged to see and read about the stories of people they know on campus such as PhD Student, Ms Delarise Mulqueeny and Health Promoter at Westville campus, Ms Phume Ngcobo whose stories are part of the museum.


South African Voices documents a critical and defining chapter in our collective journey to overcome HIV in South Africa.  The SA Voices HIV Museum exhibition was created and launched as a legacy project in July 2016 on the occasion of the 21st International AIDS Conference held in Durban.  Located at eThekwini’s KwaMuhle Museum, this SA Voices flagship was a first for South Africa and continues to be a popular destination for both tourists and the South African public.  To date over 18 000 people have visited South African Voices, 60% of whom are South African youth.

Heustice explains, ‘Our journey with HIV is far from over in South Africa.  As a result, SA Voices is a platform for an ever-evolving collection of stories, histories, community and public sector responses that explore the lived human experience of the South African HIV pandemic.’

‘Bringing to fruition the SA Voices HIV Museum Project has been a mammoth task and would not have been possible without the incredible support of our partners and funders and the many content providers who invested their expertise and energy in this project.  This is a truly South African HIV community effort,’ said Heustice.

The museum is a culmination of more than 70 stakeholder consultations, collaboration with about 85 diverse content providers and 9 000 hours of research and design.   Significant content providers include HIV Champions such as Gail and the late Nkosi Johnson; Justice Edwin Cameron; Oziel Mdletshe; Musa Njoko; Mandisa Dlamini and the Gugu Dlamini Foundation; David Patient & Neil Orr; Treatment Action Campaign; Section27; AIDS Law Project; CAPRISA; SA Medical Research Council (SAMRC); MatCH; HSRC; CHIVA South Africa; TB/HIV Care and THINK TB Trials Network; Professor Hoosen (Jerry) Coovadia and Professor Anna Coutsoudis; Dr Mike Bennish of Mpilonhle; Dr Irwin Friedman of SEED Trust; info4africa; Higher Education South Africa AIDS Programme (HEAIDS); the Office of the KwaZulu-Natal Premier, the National Department of Health and the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) Secretariat and Sectors.

listen to the inspirational stories of a number of HIV Champions spotlighted in the SA Voices exhibition here.

South African Voices HIV Museum and Words by: Sithembile Shabangu