New York Times Profiles Openly HIV-Positive South African Justice Cameron
The New York Times on Saturday profiled South African Justice Edwin Cameron, who "became the first -- and still remains the only -- senior office holder anywhere in southern Africa, and perhaps in all of Africa, to announce he was infected with HIV." According to the Times, nearly 10 years ago Cameron "stunned" the judicial panel considering him for South Africa's highest tribunal -- the Constitutional Court -- when he told them, "I am not dying of AIDS. I am living with AIDS." Soon after, Cameron also made the "extremely rare" decision to challenge then-South African President Thabo Mbeki's policies regarding HIV/AIDS, knowing that Mbeki "held the power to decide whether to name him to the Constitutional Court," the Times reports. After revealing his HIV status and challenging Mbeki, Cameron was "promoted to the appellate court but never sought again to win appointment to the Constitutional Court until last year, assuming until then that his clash with Mbeki over AIDS would ruin his chances -- an assumption fellow judges and lawyers say was almost certainly accurate." After Mbeki was forced to resign in September by the ruling African National Congress, Cameron "finally ascended to the Constitutional Court this month," the Times reports.
According to the Times, Cameron in the early 1990s founded the AIDS Law Project, but he "may ultimately be most remembered for speaking with intimate candor about his personal experiences with HIV" in interviews and his memoir, titled "Witness to AIDS." In his memoir, Cameron recounts his experiences living with HIV and his sense of renewal after beginning antiretroviral therapy in 1997. He also describes his efforts to increase antiretroviral access for other HIV-positive people in South Africa. "Here I was, blessed with renewed vigor and life and health and energy and joy," he said, adding, "Here I had my life given back to me. How could I keep quiet?" (Dugger, New York Times, 1/24).
EDITORIAL NOTE: Justice Cameron's book "Witness to AIDS" was written with the prize money received from his Kaiser Family Foundation 2000 Nelson Mandela Award.