Mmapaseka Steve Letsike is new deputy chairperson of the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC), taking over from previous deputy chairperson, Mark Heywood. Heywood, Director of social rights group, Section 27, stepped down voluntarily to “make way for a change of management”.
Although new to this role, Letsike is no stranger to the country’s response to HIV and AIDS.
She was the chair-person of SANAC’s women’s sector and was also the interim chair-person of the Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Trans-gender and Inter-sex (LGBTI) sector. Respectively, the two sectors represent organisations and other bodies that work with and/or run programmes focusing on women and the LGBTI community in the area of HIV and AIDS, health and social upliftment.
These are roles that have suited Letsike quite well over the years. This is evident in how she describes herself. “I am a feminist, an activist for LGBTI rights and a defender of human and women’s rights”, she says.
In 2009, the weekly newspaper, Mail & Guardian, recognised her as a force to reckon with in these roles and voted her as one of 300 young South Africans you should take out for lunch.
Currently, she is the chair-person of the Civil Society Forum (CSF) of SANAC. The CSF constitutes all the 17 civil society sectors of SANAC and Provincial Council on AIDS representatives.
Letsike’s resumé includes work with the Department of Social Development, OUT LGBT Well-being and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa. Currently, she is the Training and Advocacy Manager for Anova Health Institute, with a focus on the health needs of men, especially gay men and men who have sex with men (MSM), through the Health4Men project. She has been in this position since 2011.
Her other activities include, amongst others, being a member of the Gender-Based Violence Council, member of the One in Nine Campaign and member of the Department of Justice and Constitutional Development’s Task Team on Hate Crime/Corrective rape.
Letsike is also serious about her own personal development. She is currently studying towards a degree in Development Studies.
Welcoming her on board, SANAC CEO, Dr Fareed Abdullah said: “Steve is a dynamic young leader who will be making a huge contribution to the HIV and TB response in South Africa. Although she’s young, she’s been involved in SANAC for a number of years and understands the SANAC civil society sector so well that it makes her a natural leader for this component of SANAC”.
Abdullah urged “all the sectors in SANAC to work with her and to support her as we will do in the Secretariat”.