South Africa’s first black president, Nelson Mandela, died December 5 at age 95. Imprisoned 27 years by the white minority government, Mandela went on to lead the country from 1994 to 1999 through difficult political and social transitions, becoming a global icon of forgiveness, reconciliation and human rights.

The Nobel Peace Prize winner has been praised for breaking the country’s silence on AIDS, but others such as South African Constitutional Court Judge Edwin Cameron point out that Mandela didn’t make the virus a priority until after his presidency, donning an HIV Positive T-shirt in 2002 and talking of his son, Matata Mandela, who died of AIDS complications in 2005. “They were magnificent acts,” Cameron tells Frontline. “Just imagine if he had done comparable things seven years earlier.”