"Amidst the poverty of Africa, I stand before you because I am able to purchase health and vigour. I am here because I can pay for life itself."
— Edwin Cameron, speaking at the 13th International AIDS Conference, Durban, South Africa, July 10, 2000. Read full speech
Constitutional Court Justice Edwin Cameron was the first South African in a senior official position to disclose his HIV/AIDS status as positive.
He has been living with the virus since 1986 and started anti-retroviral medication in 1997.
He is an outspoken advocate of HIV/AIDS anti-retroviral treatment and made a compelling stand for it at the 13th International AIDS Conference in Durban in 2000, during a time of political complacency over the issue.
In 2005 Edwin published Witness to AIDS
, a â€śpart-memoir, part compelling analysisâ€ť of his struggle with HIV/AIDS in South Africa. The book was on the bestseller list for seven weeks.
Nelson Mandela calls him â€śone of South Africaâ€™s new heroesâ€ť.
Cameron drafted the Charter of Rights on HIV/AIDS
in 1992, co-founded the AIDS Consortium
, a non-governmental organisation working in the field of HIV/AIDS that he chaired for three years, and was the first director of the AIDS Law Project
Since 1998 he has chaired the Council of the University of the Witwatersrand. He is the patron of the Guild Cottage Children's Home, the Ladybrand Hospice, Community AIDS Response (CARE), the Soweto HIV/AIDS Counsellors' Alliance (SOHACA) and the Vuyani Dance Theatre.
In 2000 he received the Nelson Mandela Award for Health and Human Rights
. In September 2002 the Bar of England and Wales
honoured him with a special award at its annual conference in London for his â€ścontribution to international jurisprudence and the protection of human rightsâ€ť. He received the San Francisco AIDS Foundation's
Excellence in Leadership Award for 2003. In October 2003 he was elected an honorary Fellow of Keble College, Oxford
He is still active in the fight against HIV/AIDS and uses his position as constitutional judge to comment in the media about HIV/AIDS in South Africa. In an interview with the Brisbane Times
he said: â€śOne would like HIV to become as drab as malaria or TB [tuberculosis], but it has not â€¦ the simple figures are still dismaying â€” near to half a million deaths per year.â€ť