A tribute to Steve Andrews

Memorial: 6 July 2009 Thank you for asking me to say a few words. I feel humbled to pay tribute to a very rare species, known simply to so many of us as “Steve”. I speak for myself as a friend of Steve. I speak as someone living openly with HIV. I speak for The Openly Positive Trust and my dear colleague, Elaine Maane, who is away on work and so wishes she could be here. It’s really hard to put the loss of Steve into words, but I hope what I say will capture some of the feelings of so many of us living with HIV who Steve supported. 1. C C C C C

Steve, with his great sense of humour, is up there somewhere appreciating the irony of all this: ™Isn’t it our doctors who are supposed to be immortal? Isn’t it we as people living with HIV who are meant to be struggling to survive?d I feel the same sense of desperate deprivation that I had just over a year ago when losing another dear doctor friend, Ivan Toms. Again, it just doesn’t feel right that someone who cared so sensitively for so many should leave us so suddenly without warning… and even a goodbye. I can’t begin to imagine what you are feeling, Lyndall and Sarah… and from each one of us who were touched by Steve, our love and support goes out to you… and will stay with you. C 2. C C C C

When I was a law student here at UCT in the early 1980s searching for a relevant role in the repressive dark days of apartheid, I was inspired by the words of Advocate Zac Yacoob, today a Constitutional Court judge. In motivating us as future lawyers in a struggle era, Zac said: ™Remember, you are a person first, A democrat second And a lawyer as such only third.d I’m going to adapt what Zac said to pay tribute to Steve’s life: ™Steve, you were a caring human being first An HIV pioneer second And a doctor as such only third.d 3. C C C C C

Allow me to share briefly a few memories of Steve in each of these roles – o Human being and friend o HIV pioneer and advocate o And as a very special and unique doctor. Steve had a human touch. At the Durban SA AIDS Conference in April this year, I was chatting to a nurse. Apologising for her use of negative ‘sufferer’-type language to describe us as people living with HIV, she said: ™It’s time to mix medicine with feelings.d Mixing medicine with feelings… almost sounds like an anthem to Steve’s life, doesn’t it? At a music concert at the same conference, Elaine and I giggled watching Steve bopping to the sounds of Freshlyground – the man had rhythm too! 4. C C C C C

As a leader in the HIV field, Steve understood the meaning of treating us holistically as people. Long before many others, he understood that prevention and treatment were opposite sides of the same coin. He went way beyond the call of duty in helping us get access to ARVs at a time when this was not easy. Steve was a quietly committed activist. He understood his role. He freely gave of his time empowering so many of us. He checked the texts of our pamphlets and books. He unreservedly gave advice. Yet he also allowed us to educate him and enrich his approach to doctoring and life. Unnoticed, Steve helped us develop a new paradigm: the philosophy of positive living at a personal level while engaging in bigger battles out there. With his support and the support of each other, we began to celebrate life with HIV as one part of who we are. 5. C C C C C

As a doctor, he was unique. Over the last decade, Elaine and I followed Steve from Brooklyn to Rondebosch, Kenilworth and Claremont. We have written about our journeys with Steve in our books Clouds move and Umzala. Consultations with Steve were always… well different. In Rondebosch, I got a touch concerned about the confidentiality of it all when his resident cat popped in regularly to purr a comment or two while we were busy. In preparing for today, I asked Elaine: ™So how did Steve make you feel?d She said: ™I never once felt like a patient. Steve’s first words were ‘so how are you?’ or ‘what’s going on’ before he opened my folder. One day I asked him: ‘why don’t you wear gloves when you examine me?’d

Steve’s answer was: ™It’s easier like this – when I wear gloves, that’s when I prick myself.d

He was unique in another sense – unlike most doctors, Steve was an enabler. He gave us the information we needed. He told us what he thought. But he made us make the tough decisions about going on treatment or changing regimens. C C C C C 6.

Above all, Steve made us feel like a big HIV family, and not like clients or patients. How many people can you chat to about anything? And we did… and that’s probably why Serin would be tearing her hair out, saying: ™Er… Steve’s running late… again!d We would often ask him: ™So when are you going to slow down, Steve?d All we’d get in return, was that wonderful selfless smile. My next piece of writing may be called: ™Mixing medicine with feelings – an ode to Steve.d Thank you Steve, for being a true friend. Thank you from all of us for being a true people’s doctor. Thank you for being you. 7.
Derrick Fine

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021 783 1699 or 072 156 4667 derrickf@iafrica.com or opositive@iafrica.com www.openlypositive.com