Mothupi leads fight against HIV and Aids

Audrey Mothupi head of group transformation/CSI.
Pix for the Liberty Survey in November 2007.
Pix for The Financial Mail in by Jeremy Glyn.
Audrey Mothupi head of group transformation/CSI. Pix for the Liberty Survey in November 2007. Pix for The Financial Mail in by Jeremy Glyn.

WHEN she conceived the idea all Liberty Life group human resources director Audrey Mothupi wanted was to encourage corporate South Africa to take a visible leadership role in the fight against HIV and Aids.

WHEN she conceived the idea all Liberty Life group human resources director Audrey Mothupi wanted was to encourage corporate South Africa to take a visible leadership role in the fight against HIV and Aids.

"For me it's been an interesting journey. Part of me is quite excited about the possibility to challenge South Africa to be responsible. We have not done that in over 10 years. If we can talk about it, we can change it."

When Mothupi took a public test at the e.tv studios in Hyde Park in Johannesburg on World Aids Day, she was fulfilling much more than an executive role. She was getting to terms with the reality that we are all equally exposed to contracting the dreaded virus.

Liberty is running a campaign, "Own Your Life", aimed at making us ask questions about our wealth and health.

The last three weeks have proven these campaigns to be more than just a marketing gimmick. Mothupi told millions of South Africans watching the breakfast show that she discovered about three weeks earlier that her husband had been having "multiple" affairs.

"The joke was on me because I personalised the campaign. I found myself asking whether I owned my life. I had done Aids tests before, but had missed my medicals for the last two years. When I did, I found that I had a lump on my breast. Thankfully it was benign. Now I was hit with the affairs."

The three minutes' waiting for the test results, she says, were the longest in her life. The good news was that she tested negative. The bad was that her marriage was definitely over.

But all is not lost.

"Taking responsibility starts with you. We as a country are beginning to talk about it and starting to come out and engage as South Africans.

"For 11 years I thought I was happily married. You wake up one morning and your life is at risk because you trusted. That is what we all do. We trust our husbands, our wives, our boyfriends and our girlfriends. You don't realise how close you are to being a high-risk individual. It doesn't only happen to other people."

Vivacious, confident and articulate, Mothupi's exterior belies the inner turmoil she must be going through. She even finds a moment of humour.

"The down side is the pain, the upside is, hey, I am single again. It doesn't mean I have to stop being responsible."

She would like to see her colleagues in corporate South Africa look deeper within themselves and ask if they are meeting the Aids challenge in the best way they can.

"Corporate South Africa should take responsibility. We have initiated a project. We call it the CEO Challenge because CEOs are the pillars of the corporate world, the leaders. We challenge them to take a leadership role and responsibility."

As a mother of a six-year-old daughter, facing the Aids challenge is the least she can do for her little girl.

"Every step forward makes it a better place for my daughter. I want her to grow up to look at the success and how we manage to fight this as a country."

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