News24, 28 October 2002, Von Mollendorff, Kenyon honoured

Nelspruit - Two prominent figures in the battle against HIV/Aids in Mpumalanga won leadership awards in Nelspruit at the weekend.

Former superintendent of Rob Ferreira hospital Dr Thys von Mollendorff and head of the anti-rape organisation Grip, Barbara Kenyon, were recognised for their battle against government bureaucracy by the Lowveld chamber of business and tourism on Friday night.

The provincial health department fired Von Mollendorff on May 17 because he went against the department's stance on antiretroviral drugs at the time and allowed Kenyon's organisation to administer them to rape survivors at the hospital.

The drugs reduce the risk of people who are raped from contracting HIV.

"I would never let a patient die if I know there are ways to help them," Von Mollendorff said. "I will always put the interests of the patient first."

He expressed surprise at receiving the leadership award and said: "When I left Rob Ferreira I didn't realise that people would recognise my work or the effort I made to change peoples lives".

He presently works as a locum in Hazyview and is awaiting the outcome of his labour court appeal against his dismissal.

Awards chairperson and former Mpumalanga premier Mathews Phosa said Von Mollendorff had shown that working for the greater good sometimes demanded personal sacrifice.

"In backing Barbara and her project he garnered the support of like-minded physicians, challenged conventional wisdom as espoused by those in power and courageously pursued a course he knew to be right, but knew would ultimately cost him his job," Phosa said.

He lavished equal praise on Kenyon, a founder of the Greater Nelspruit Rape Intervention Project (Grip).

"She has demonstrated that everyone can make a difference," he said. "She has played a major part in galvanizing the community to address the social ills that surround them and to bring caring and understanding."

He added that Kenyon had brought hope, compassion and quality of life to rape survivors by restoring their dignity and attempting, where possible, to ensure that justice was served. - African Eye News Service