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Nkosi Johnson

A sun that set before its dawn, Nkosi Johnson is the greatest hero of South Africa. This intelligent, sweet, very brave and optimistic fighter battled the deadly HIV virus from conception till the age of 12. On June 1, 2001, he succumbed to HIV/AIDS-related illnesses. He is my hero. He made the world aware of this deadly killer disease; his words still echo in the ears of this living world. Rest in peace, Nkosi. You are a true fighter, a world HERO.

—Colman Masemola from Ga-Marishane, South Africa

Nkosi Johnson was born on February 4, 1989. He was born with HIV. His mother died of AIDS, and he was adopted when he was 2 by his foster mother, Gail Johnson. Since Gail did not have money for HIV medications, Nkosi survived on a healthy diet, vitamin supplements and by minimizing the stress of being HIV positive. Nkosi decided that he wanted to speak out about AIDS and became a spokesperson for AIDS awareness in Africa.

Nkosi will be remembered for a speech he made at the World AIDS Conference in Durban in July 2000. He said, “You can’t get AIDS by hugging, kissing, holding hands. We are normal human beings. We can walk. We can talk.” In December 2000, Nkosi got very sick. He died on June 1, 2001.

Hospital for Sick Children University of Toronto Positive Youth Outreach CATIE