South Africa's AIDS Truthsayer

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Unati Ngamntwini / EPA

South African Minister of Health Barbara Hogan is sworn into office at the Union Buildings in Pretoria, South Africa.

This week, South African health minister Barbara Hogan got her country up to speed with the rest of the world with one statement: "We know that HIV causes AIDS." For years, South African officials had denied the link between the HIV and AIDS, and even recommended unconventional treatments like eating beetroot instead of taking antiretroviral medication. Hogan is a South African native with a record for being hard-headed, independent, and for standing up for her convictions.

Personal Life
• 56 years old

• Hometown: Benoni, South Africa.

• Loves animals, especially cats and dogs

• Starts work at 3 a.m., when everyone is still asleep and not bothering her

• Joined the African National Congress (ANC) party in 1977 and campaigned against apartheid

• Arrested in 1982 for membership in the ANC and sentenced to 10 years in prison for "furthering the aims of a banned organization"

• Was the first South African white woman convicted as a traitor

• Reportedly endured such bad torture during her imprisonment that she attempted suicide

• Released in 1990 when the ban on the ANC was lifted
• Served as the ANC's regional secretary in the Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vereeniging region in the early 90s, when the violence there was exceptionally bad

• Narrowly escaped an assassination attempt when her opponents mistakenly planted a bomb under a car belonging to another woman

• Spoke out against former president Thabo Mbeki's denial of AIDS/HIV

• Chaired the finance committee between 1999-2004 but was removed by Mbeki, reportedly over of her public stance on HIV/AIDS

• Married to Ahmed Kathrada, who was sentenced to life imprisonment alongside Nelson Mandela and served 18 years

• Once snapped at Nelson Mandela during a meeting and stormed out. Mandela now affectionately refers to her as the "Irish Devil" and "the Wardress"

• Became health minister in September, when Kgalema Motlanthe took over from Mbeki. Motlanthe demoted former health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang to a lower governmental position and named Hogan as her successor

• Vowed to make AIDS a top priority as health minister, reversing years of denial by Tshabalala-Msimang, who advocated treatments like beetroot and garlic

What she has said:
On her previous governmental roles: "I was fortunate to oversee the transformation of the South Africa Revenue Service from parliament and it was a joke in those days. They didn't even have ribbons to print the tax returns."

On South Africa's medical care: "It is extraordinary that people can continue to work in hospitals where there is so much dysfunction."

On her new appointment: "I have no background in health, but ANC told me that is precisely why they want me in this job. They are clear, they want health delivery, they want things to improve."

On what she will do as health minister: "HIV and AIDS has to be an absolute priority for government."