New book profiles early work of HIV activists

New book profiles early work of HIV activists

In 2002, only 25,000 HIV-positive South Africans had access to exorbitantly life-saving antiretrovirals (ARVs) costing thousands of rands. Today, the story is much different and a new book chronicles one of its most important chapters.

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Speaking Truth to PowerFounded in 1993 by Constitutional Court Justice Edwin Cameron, the AIDS Law Project was involved in many high profile cases, including that of “Mr. A” who challenged what was then South African Airways’ policy of mandatory, pre-employment HIV testing before his death in 2004. The project also worked to introduce cheaper ARVs into the country and supported the Treatment Action Campaign’s work.

Author Didi Moyle recently launched her book, Speaking Truth to Power, detailing the project’s work in Johannesburg.

Executive Director of the public interest law organisation Section27 Mark Heywood called Moyle’s work a “true reflection of the hard journey the AIDS Law Project, and now Section27, have gone through.”

Created in 2010, Section27 incorporated the AIDS Law Project, continuing the project’s work while also broadening the scope of this work beyond HIV. Heywood served as the director of the AIDS Law Project from 1997.[quote float= left]”Judge Edwin Cameron knew how important access to social justice was even before he came out about his status”

Speaking at the book’s launch, Heywood took a moment to acknowledge Cameron’s contribution to social justice in the country and credited it with having helped usher in treatment for people living with HIV.

“Judge Edwin Cameron knew how important access to social justice was even before he came out about his status,” said Heywood, speaking about Cameron’s decision to disclose his HIV-positive status in 1999. “This is also a moment to honour him for his contribution on making sure that all South Africans, especially ordinary citizens, have access to social justice… which led to millions of South Africans (accessing) life-long treatment.”

Former Constitutional Court Chief Judge Sandile Ngcobo also commended the project’s work, reflecting on how the project had worked to extend antiretroviral treatment from just 25,000 South Africans in 2002 to more than two million today.

Activist and former COSATU Secretary General Jay Naidoo said the project’s legacy was a testament to power of the law and the Constitution as tools for social justice.

Published by Jacana Media, Moyle’s book is available at bookstores for R300.