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Wednesday, April 21, 1999 Published at 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK

World: Africa

South African judge breaks Aids taboo

Campaigns have been launched to educate South Africans

By Greg Barrow in Johannesburg

Aids groups in South Africa have welcomed a decision by a top-ranking judge to reveal that he is HIV positive.

Judge Edwin Cameron disclosed that he had the virus which leads to Aids during a hearing for a position on South Africa's constitutional court.

Mr Cameron, who is a vocal campaigner for gay rights, said he made the decision to reveal his plight in an attempt to increase Aids awareness in a country where the disease is still largely a taboo subject.


South Africa currently has one of the highest rates of new HIV infections in the world.

Recent official figures suggest that almost 4 million South Africans are HIV positive and more than 1,500 new people are infected by the virus every day.

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Despite government-sponsored campaigns, Aids and its implications are still largely taboo subjects among the majority of the population.

In rural South Africa, there have been several incidents of individuals being ostracised, beaten and occasionally killed by members of their community after they admitted to being HIV positive.

Judge Cameron said that he was fortunate to be in a position where admitting his status would not mean the end of his life or professional career.

But he added that most South Africans living with the virus are not so secure and would be at extreme risk if they revealed their medical condition to friends and neighbours.

Judge Cameron, who is now in his 40s, has had a long and distinguished career and is respected in South Africa for his campaigning on gay rights.

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