Durban, South Africa: Reporting live from SA AIDS 2017
Tuesday, 19 July 2016
"ARV availability reflects our prejudices and fears"
Judge Cameron invited the sex workers and transgender people in the audience to join him on the stage
"The fact that I am here today at all is a tribute to the activists, researchers, doctors and scientists in the audience," said Judge Edwin Cameron. Judge Cameron, who lives with HIV, was delivering the Jonathan Mann memorial address.
"We pause to honour the part, in treatment availability and accessibility, of angry, principled and determined activists, in South Africa’s Treatment Action Campaign and elsewhere. For millions of poor people, their anger brought the gift of life," he said.
"Without their courage, strategic skill and passion, medication would have remained unimaginably expensive, out of reach to most people with HIV. They led a successful campaign that saved millions of lives.
"The fact that many millions of people across the world are, like me, receiving ARV treatment, is a credit to their work.
"They taught us an important lesson. Solidarity and support are not enough. Knowledge and insight are not enough. To save lives, we need more. We need action – enraged, committed, principled, strategically ingenious action.
"They refused to acquiesce in a howling moral outrage. This was the notion that life-saving treatment – treatment that was available, and that could be cheaply manufactured – would not given to poor people, most of them black, because of laws protecting intellectual property and patent-holders’ profits." But, he said, the struggle is far from over.
"There still remains so much that should be done. More importantly, there still remains so much that can be done.
"Too many people are still denied access to ARVs. In South Africa, despite our many successes, well over six million people are living with HIV. And, though about half of South Africans with HIV are still not on ARVs, from September this year ARVs will be provided to all with HIV, regardless of CD4 count.
"Globally, of the 36.7 million people living with HIV at the end of 2015, fewer than half had access to ARVs.
"Worse, the pattern of ARV availability is one that reflects our own weaknesses and vices as humans – our prejudices and hatreds and fears, our selfish claiming for ourselves what we do not grant to others.
"Most of those still in need of ARVs are poor, marginalised and stigmatised – stigmatised by poverty, sexual orientation, gender identity, by the work they do, by their drug-taking and by being in prison."