SA AIDS activist, David Ross Patient has died

World renowned South African AIDS activist David Ross Patient, who was diagnosed with HIV in 1983, died on Friday evening after contracting pneumonia following an operation.

In a post on Patient’s Facebook page, David’s partner Neil Orr confirmed that Patient had died.

“I regret to inform you than David Patient left us at 10:30pm on the 22nd September 2017. He developed pneumonia after surgery, and his heart stopped.

“I want to thank you all for the chats he shared with you, the jokes, the sharing of information – it was his pleasure to check for what everyone had to say, every day.

“He brought many things to this world, including humour, compassion, and yes, at times a bit of bite. He cared.
Goodbye David. Neil.”

Patient had been upbeat about his surgery, his well-known sense of humour shining through in one of his last posts on Facebook.

“I almost got kicked out of the hospital just now. Apparently the sign ‘Stroke Patients Here’ meant something different? Turns out I am the last patient for surgery so the Drs aren’t rushed… couple more hours of waiting…”

A brief history

Patient was diagnosed with Grids (Gay-related immune deficiency), later to be known as AIDS, on March 13 1983, while living in Las Vegas in the US. At the time there were no tests for HIV.

“Based on where my immune system was back in 1983, the doctors who have studied me believe I was infected back in the late 1970s. Be that as it may, I see my infection date as the date I was told I had GRIDS, back on my 22nd birthday in 1983,” Patient explained on his website.

Subsequently, he had worked with the who’s who of HIV research and had spent his life as an AIDS activist and advocate for the rights of those living with HIV/AIDS, both in the US and in Africa.

“Someone had to bear witness about a time when there was a disease called HIV; why could it not be me? Natural disasters, holocausts, genocides, there are always a handful of folks who survive; I was determined to be one of those people. That was the beginning of my own self-empowerment and ‘growing a pair!'”

Patient was born in Zambia in 1963 and adopted at 10 weeks old, before moving to SA at the age of 6. He fled SA to the US in 1979 following a warrant of arrest issued by the SA Bureau of State of Security.

He lived in the US for 16 years, before returning to SA in 1995.

Patient was a strong advocate for getting tested.

“Early detection means all sorts of things can be done to help you. The earlier you know, the more you can do to help yourself.

“This can also delay the need for ARVs for many years and when you need the ARVs, go on them when you are still healthy. It is easier to keep healthy than it is to try and bring you back from the verge of death,” he said.

Tributes pour in

News of his passing has spread rapidly, with his page flooded with messages of condolence..

“A warrior has left us, to rest after so many long hard years of brave battle. Thank you David Ross Patient for all you taught us, so very much.

“You achieved so much, you leave this world significantly improved. Your almost daily reminders to keep smiling in spite of what life throws at you will be sorely missed. #horsewaterfish My heartfelt condolences to Neil and all who love David in this very sad time,” wrote Wendy Case.

“Woke up this morning to the news that David Ross Patient has passed away. I met David and Neil many years ago, he was an aids activist and I interviewed him on radio. Needless to say my reaction to this intense, arrogant, self opinionated man was less than friendly. However, something inside me resonated with this man and we became friends.

“Between him and Neil they quite literally changed my life, two more beautiful souls you couldn’t wish to meet. David was not only my friend but my teacher and mentor. Over the last few years he became ill and developed a superbug in his intestines.

“He never stopped fighting it was quite simply not in his nature. My friend this farewell is very difficult for me, my heart goes out to Neil Orr and David’s family and friends. So my friend until we meet again, horse, water, fish!” added David Watts.

“Once in a lifetime someone comes along and makes a profound impact on your life, makes you take stock of who you are and how you react and treat those around you, who always takes the time to listen, who isn’t afraid to tell you like it is, who always manages to smile no matter what life throws at them.

“Now it is your time to rest my friend. You have made a profound impact on so many lives and will always live on in our hearts and in our minds. Your courageous fight is now over. Rest now David Ross Patient. To Neil and David’s family, I share in your loss and hold you all in my heart. Goodbye my friend,” said Delano Simpson.