Obituary: Nkosi Johnson loses fight to HIV/AIDS
June 01, 2001, 08:23 AM
Twelve-year-old Aids activist Nkosi Johnson, who challenged the gov-
ernment's AIDS policies and united millions of South Africans in the
fight against the disease, has died. Nkosi, who was born HIV-
positive, died early this morning after collapsing at the end of De-
cember last year. Nkosi was taken home on January 4 after doctors
said they could do nothing more for him.
He was initially given nine months to live when his foster mother,
Gail Johnson, took him in at the age of two. Nkosi said he was taken
from his mother Daphne when he was two-years-old, because she also
suffered from the disease and could not support or keep him.
At the age of seven he was labelled South Africa's longest surviving
child Aids victim.
Johnson runs Nkosi's Haven in Johannesburg, which is home to 20 chil-
dren and 11 of their mothers.
Nkosi first came to the fore in 1997 when Johnson successfully took
on parents at the Melville Primary School who were against the boy's
admission. Last year he completed grade four at the school. Shortly
before his death, his headmaster said 80% of the pupils at his school
did not know he had Aids. For the past four years they would just
play together like children do, he said.
Nkosi the AIDS activist
Nkosi went on to steal the hearts of thousands at the 13th Interna-
tional AIDS Conference in Durban last July. He told the packed audi-
ence, including President Thabo Mbeki, that he wanted AZT to be given
to HIV-positive pregnant mothers to prevent transmission of the dis-
ease to their unborn babies. He was loudly cheered. "We are normal
human beings, we can walk and talk. You can't get Aids by hugging,
kissing and holding hands," he told the audience. The speech was
broadcast live across the globe.
With his mature views and sense of humour Nkosi soon became an inter-
national symbol in the fight against the disease. His last speaking
engagement was at an AIDS conference in Atlanta, Georgia last Octo-
"He has a delightful sense of humour and perception way beyond his
years," Johnson said of her son.
Former president Nelson Mandela said Nkosi had touched the hearts and
inspired millions of people. He praised Nkosi as an "icon of the
struggle for life".
"Children, such as Nkosi Johnson, should be enjoying a life filled
with joy and laughter and happiness," Mandela said when he visited
Nkosi shortly before his death.
Nkosi, who had to take a cocktail of drugs to stay alive, said he of-
ten asked God: "Why can't I be like the other kids? Why don't you put
an end to this? I'm tired of taking the medicines. Children should be
allowed to live a life and not be born to die," he said. - Sapa
Portrait Nkosi Johnson:
Nkosi's mother to seek legal action
Nkosi's condition unchanged after relapse
SA's Aids darling Nkosi turns 12
Article printout courtesy of the South African Broadcasting Corpora-
tion. Copyright c 2000 SABC. See 'Disclaimer'
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