Our Country's History
How It All Started

April of 1994 marked a historical turning point for South Africa when the first truly democratic election was held and Nelson Mandela (who was imprisoned for 27 years due to his anti-apartheid activities) was elected president. A new constitution was soon put into place and the massive task of restructuring the country began.

It is clear today that much progress has been made, but South Africa is still affected by the legacy of the apartheid that had divided the country since 1947. Under this system, the Nationalist Government in South Africa enacted laws to enforce segregation by prohibiting mixed-race marriages, forcing physical separation based upon race, restricting black students from attending white universities, and creating severely biased employment laws. The Bantu Education Act of 1951 mandated a deliberately inferior education system for both black and coloured people. By 1991, more than 20 such laws existed and were being severely enforced.

HIV/AIDS in South Africa

While South Africa is working towards that equal spirit, it is also fighting another legacy of apartheid - the explosive spread of HIV/AIDS.

The first recorded case of AIDS in South Africa was diagnosed in 1982, and by 1987, the apartheid government recognized that AIDS had the potential to become "a major problem," but took little to no action over the next decade to fight its spread.

The first significant government response came in 1992 when Nelson Mandela spoke at the newly formed National AIDS Convention of South Africa (NACOSA). The new democratic government then accepted NACOSA's strategy for fighting AIDS in 1994. However, the plan was highly criticised for being disorganised and poorly thought out.

Meanwhile, the epidemic continued to rage. The reported HIV prevalence rate among pregnant women in 1993 was 4.3 percent. By 2003, that number had grown to 27.9 percent, and in 2005, it was 30.2 percent.

HIV/AIDS threatens not only the health and well-being of South Africa's people, but its reconstruction and development. Because citizens are dying or becoming ill in their most productive years, AIDS is affecting South Africa's economic prosperity, foreign investment and sustainable development.

Since apartheid's end, which began in 1990, South Africa's government has taken many steps to restore unity and hope to citizens. In 1996, The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chaired by Archbishop Desmond Tutu, began hearings on human rights crimes during the apartheid years. South Africa is working hard to overcome the residual effects of legislated inequality, and recent years have seen vast improvements in housing, water and electricity, political stability and international support. The ultimate aim is to replace an old mindset of race and class-consciousness with an equal spirit of shared national identity.

View the Historical Timeline
Why did AIDS become an epidemic in South Africa?

Many factors have to be taken into consideration:

  • The political unrest put the government's focus on social disruption rather than the emerging HIV epidemic. By the time this health crisis was acknowledged, many people were already dying of AIDS.
  • Lack of public education leading to a climate of ignorance
  • Rampant rape and sexual abuse
  • Pregnant and nursing women not receiving medicine which could prevent them from passing HIV on to their unborn children
  • Long ingrained cultural patterns that do not allow women to say "no" to sex or insist on safe sex
  • The Virgin Cure myth
Where Botshabelo Fits in

At Botshabelo, we are providing more than a sanctuary for those left impoverished, hungry, abandoned or dispossessed by HIV/AIDS and the legacy of apartheid. We are helping people form new long-term support systems, create a home, and to heal physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually so that they can have the dignity that comes from participating in a productive and sustainable way of life.

We care for young victims of the AIDS epidemic and those struggling to find a better life. Our community unites regardless of age, race, religion or gender. We live and work together. We share a difficult history, but strive for a better future.

The Virgin Cure Myth

The lack of public education about HIV and AIDS has left many in South Africa in a maze of ignorance.

The most horrifying and brutal consequence of this ignorance is the emergence of child and infant rape.

This is the result of HIV-infected men, desperate for a cure, acting upon a folk superstition that having sex with a virgin can cure them of AIDS.

This idea is not new or unique to Africa. It originated over 400 years ago in Europe, when people believed that having sex with a virgin could cure syphilis. It was later promoted in Victorian England by disreputable doctors.