Current Event #5 AIDS activist dies at age 12 When: June 1, 2001 Where: South African What and Why: A South African boy who was an outspoken AIDS activist has died.
Twelve-year-old Nkosi Johnson was born with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. In his short life, he did a lot to change people's attitudes about HIV/AIDS in South Africa - a country where people often look down on those who have AIDS.
In 1997, Nkosi won a battle against policies keeping HIV-infected children out of public schools. This led to a policy forbidding schools from discriminating against HIV-positive children, and to guidelines for how schools should treat infected students.
Last July, Nkosi gave a moving speech at the opening of the 13th International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa. He talked about his own disease, and challenged people not to fear those suffering from AIDS.
Former South Africanpresident Nelson Mandela calls Nkosi an "icon of the struggle for life." "He touched many hearts," Mandela says.
About 200 HIV-positive children are born in South Africa every day. Most die before they reach school age.
"Nkosi wanted people to know that infected people, and especially children, deserve everything in the world," says his foster mother, Gail Johnson. "His legacy is that we will care for them." So What: A foundation named after Nkosi will be established to raise money to help AIDS orphans and infected mothers and their children. If he had not spoken up about this disease, there wouldn't be foundation to raise money to help AIDS orphans and infected mothers and their children.
Sources: CBC News Online, Canadian Press