Nkosi Johnson died at 12 from HIV but in his short life he campaigned tirelessly for equal rights for children with Aids

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Today Google’s Doodle honored a hero many in the USA have never heard of. South African activist Nkosi Johnson was the longest-surviving child born with HIV when he passed away at age 12 in 2001.

Nkosi was born to Nonthlanthla Daphne Nkosi in a village near Dannhauser in 1989. He never knew his father. Nkosi was HIV-positive from birth, and was legally adopted by Gail Johnson, a Johannesburg Public Relations practitioner, when his own mother, debilitated by the disease, was no longer able to care for him.

The young Nkosi Johnson first came to public attention in 1997, when a primary school in the Johannesburg suburb of Melville refused to accept him as a pupil because of his HIV-positive status. The incident caused a furore at the highest political level — South Africa’s Constitution forbids discrimination on the grounds of medical status — and the school later reversed its decision.

Nkosi’s birth mother died of HIV/AIDS in the same year that he started school. His own condition steadily worsened over the years, although, with the help of medication and treatment, he was able to lead a fairly active life at school and at home.

Nkosi was the keynote speaker at the 13th International AIDS Conference, where he encouraged people with HIV/AIDS to be open about the disease and to seek equal treatment. Nkosi finished his speech with the words:

“Care for us and accept us — we are all human beings. We are normal. We have hands. We have feet. We can walk, we can talk, we have needs just like everyone else — don’t be afraid of us — we are all the same!”

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Nelson Mandela referred to Nkosi as an “icon of the struggle for life.”

Together with his adoptive mother, Nkosi founded a refuge for HIV positive mothers and their children, Nkosi’s Haven, in Johannesburg. In November 2005, Gail represented Nkosi when he posthumously received the International Children’s Peace Prize from the hands of Mikhail Gorbachev. Nkosi’s Haven received a prize of US $100,000 from the KidsRights Foundation.

Nkosi is buried at the Westpark Cemetery in Johannesburg.

Src: Wikipedia.

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PUBLIC NOTE: The opinions expressed in this article are the author's own and do not reflect the view of the Urban Intellectuals, affiliates or partners.


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