Constitutional Court Judge Edwin Cameron discovered he was HIV positive in 1986 when the death toll for people with AIDS was rising.As a person newly diagnosed, Cameron had a heightened sense of his impending death. But more than three decades later, he’s very much alive. Tanja Bencun recently spoke with Cameron and found out that he is optimistic about life and the way government is now dealing with the epidemic. Cameron has been on HIV treatment for almost 15 years and as he puts it “it is a miracle drug.” He remains the only public official to have spoken out about his status. He says people now have a better understanding of HIV and AIDS mainly because it has affected all of us in some way or another. Stigma long associated with HIV is declining and this is partly due to treatment. Cameron says:“People are talking about being on treatment, about being on ARVs. I think it has also helped that we have had a massive test drive to get people tested many more people know their HIV status, many more people know someone who has got an HIV positive status. This has all helped which doesn’t mean to say stigma has disappeared. It is still all too present, but it has diminished.”
Many more people know their HIV status, many more people know someone who has got an HIV positive status
South Africa is now a world leader in treatment programmes, supplying over 1.7 million infected people with ARVs. Even though South Africa still has the highest number of people infected with HIV, progress and new research and discoveries are being made every day.
Cameron is optimistic that we can stop this epidemic: “If we could find every person every last person today in our country, 5.6 or 5.7 million out of 49 million people who had HIV and reach them and say…start on treatment or stop doing any risk behaviours. We would stop this epidemic. So there is a lot more that we can do. We haven’t reached everyone who needs treatment.”
– By Tanja Bencun