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January 7, 2009


On New Year's Eve, President Kgalema Motlanthe appointed the highly vocal AIDS activist Edwin Cameron to South Africa's highest court.

Justice Cameron is the first openly gay official to serve in such a prestigious position. The fact that he is also HIV-positive makes the appointment even more groundbreaking.

Box Turtle Bulletin reported that Nelson Mandela called Cameron “one of South Africa’s new heroes” for disclosing that he was HIV-positive:

In an interview with the BBC, he explained that he was inspired to speak out by the death of Gugu Dlamini, who was stoned and stabbed to death three weeks after she had admitted on isi- Zulu-language radio that she was HIV-positive.

“I thought that if this woman, without any protection, living in a township, not behind a palisade like I do in my middle-class suburb in Joburg, not with the income of a judge, not with the constitutional protection … I thought that I should speak out,” he said.

Judge Cameron was intensely questioned about his activist roots by the Judicial Service Commission. Ultimately, the commission did unanimously recommend his appointment. He previously served on South Africa's Supreme Court of Appeal.

He was also a very outspoken critic of former President Thabo Mbeki’s policies on AIDS, calling them tantamount to signing a death sentence for millions of South Africans. Mbeki retaliated by blocking Cameron’s rise to the Constitutional Court.

At the International AIDS Conference held in Mexico City last August, Cameron called for decriminalizing homosexuality worldwide as an important step in combating AIDS.