The executive, Board and team at the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre and Health Foundation are deeply saddened by the loss of their patron and supporter, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu, in Cape Town.
The Archbishop and Mam Leah Tutu became patrons of the Centre and Foundation in August 2004. Since that time, their support has been inspirational to the work of the organization and their values of compassion, excellence, integrity, respect, progress and innovation have been fundamental to the ongoing work of the organisations.
Prof. Linda-Gail Bekker, Director of the HIV Centre and the Executive Officer of the Health Foundation, said “the Arch constantly reminded us that we are all God’s children and have value. He reminded us that every act of kindness helped to wipe the tears from God’s face. We will greatly miss his indomitable spirit but every day his memory challenges us to better serve those in need”.
The Archbishop’s unyielding stance on the importance of human rights; including the right to healthcare for all people regardless of ideology, sexual preference, race, ethnicity, social status or condition; has been a guiding principle. He remained true to his unshakeable belief in the rainbow nation and encouraged all South Africans to serve and support the marginalized, including those living with HIV and Tuberculosis. In the early part of the rollout of HIV treatment, he was a strong protagonist for equitable access to care, vigorously denounced the AIDS denialism rife at the time and called the stigmatization and exclusion of people living with HIV a “new apartheid”.
Prof Robin Wood said of the Arch: “His interest and support lent his “moral compass” to counter institutional and political obstruction of care for those living with HIV. His personal suffering from tuberculosis fueled his interest in alleviating this scourge in South Africa. It continues to inspire us to work hard to solve these public health challenges. We are greatly honoured to bear his name.”
The Arch, as he was affectionately known to us, always wanted to hear the newest innovation and progress in the field of HIV, TB and related conditions. He celebrated the scientific wins and the losses with great interest and understanding. He always encouraged us in all our endeavours and never failed to acknowledge breakthroughs, achievements or other events through a message, a kind word or flowers. He and Mama Leah attended many of our community activities, participating enthusiastically and was always willing to share his wisdom laced with infectious good humour. He empathized with those living with HIV and TB and showed the deepest compassion for those most in need, attending site clinics, mobiles and other community events, his charisma and love always strongly shining through. His support of the “Tutu Testers” and “Teen Trucks” is greatly valued and people continue to flock to those services because of his legacy.
Ms. Zohra Ebrahim, the Desmond Tutu Health Foundation Board Chair, adds: “His moral leadership was rooted in his deep humanity, and we were privileged to have this tireless campaigner against social injustice be vocal in support of people living with HIV. He advocated that health and wellbeing not be used as a source of social exclusion and are proud to have his legacy live on in the work we do in the DTHF. We acknowledge and send love to Thandi, the Arch’s daughter who is a board member”.
At this sad time, we recognize the deep loss that Mama Leah and the family are feeling. Our hearts go out to them all to find comfort and peace and be blessed by the memories of this wonderful husband, father and grandfather. His strong belief that evil can be overcome through love, passion and undaunting faith in humanity will lead us on to new challenges.
Hamba kahle Arch, your memory is a great blessing to us all. Rest softly.
The Desmond Tutu Health Foundation is a not for profit organization and is affiliated to the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre, Department of Medicine, University of Cape Town, South Africa. The organisations have been in existence since the onset of the HIV epidemic in South Africa and they work to reduce the impact of HIV, TB and related conditions among the people of Cape Town and beyond through research, service and a deep passion for humanity.