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The new SANAC governance structure, which was approved at Plenary, intensifies the role of Civil Society in the Council. It is imperative that the SANAC Plenary, its various committees, the Provincial and District Councils on AIDS and the Secretariats at national, provincial, district and local levels are reformed in a way that facilitates the work of implementing the new National Strategic Plan (NSP) on HIV and AIDS, TB and STIs in an unfettered way.

An audit of all 17 civil society sectors represented in the South African National AIDS Council (SANAC) found a number of weaknesses and disorganisation. To strengthen the civil society sector’s participation within SANAC, it was proposed that a Civil Society Forum (CSF) that will act as an advisory body to the sectors be established. The CSF duly came into existence in 2012 and it aims to facilitate and maximise the participation of NGOs and other civil society networks, including those representing people living with HIV. The Forum will meet four times a year to review progress of civil society participation and to share resources and information.

Elections were held to choose the leadership of the CSF. Two women were elected to lead the Forum. The chair is Mmapaseka Steve Letsike and Prudence Mabele is the deputy. Representatives from various SANAC committees were elected for key roles to strengthen the advisory body. Seventeen (17) SANAC civil society sectors are represented at the Civil Society Forum.

The Civil Society Forum hosted its first meeting for 2013 this April and discussed issues such as the Civil Society Forum’s terms of reference, the sector’s governance and co-ordination structure, the primary mandate of each Civil Society sector and its role in the implementation of NSP 2012-2016, sector representation (constituencies, geographical coverage, key areas of work and implementation capacity), sector NSP Implementation plans, monitoring and evaluation framework and reporting structure, amongst others.

“This is an exciting time for the forum. We have an opportunity to engage and to maximise the Civil Society Sector participation in SANAC to contribute to the broader national HIV response. New leadership is in place and it’s waiting to work hard. The new NSP provides the country with the best possible framework with which to proceed and it contains the most up-todate policies for addressing HIV, STIs and TB”, says CSF chair-person, Steve Letsike.

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