"He said he wished he were a white person because he never saw a
white person get sick."
--Peter Hawthorne, Time magazine correspondent
South African (Zulu) boy, birth name Xolani Nkosi; b. 1989-02-04, near
Johannesburg, d. Johannesburg 2001-06-01.
Nkosi Johnson, on the day of his death, was the longest surviving child born with HIV in South Africa. He was the child of an HIV-positive mother and never knew his father. His mother, dying of AIDS herself (she eventually died in 1997) placed the son in the care of a volunteer clinic worker named Gail Johnson in 1991 who adopted him. By then, Nkosi had already beaten the odds by surviving past his second birthday.
In 1997 his case gained publicity when Johnson tried to enroll him in school and met the opposition of some parents. Their success in enrolling him made education authorities rewrite the rules and made Nkosi a poster boy for the anti-AIDS campaign which was not making enough headway in South Africa.
Nkosi's greatest moment of fame came in July 2000 when he addressed the bickering delegates at the International AIDS Conference in Durban, telling the story of a child born with the disease like only a child could tell it--the story of a stupendous number of mainly poor, black children born with AIDS in South Africa. Three months later he did the same at a conference in Atlanta, expressing sadness at there being so many sick people.
He died of brain damage brought on by AIDS. At the time of his death he weighed no more than 10kg. His legacy is a centre for HIV positive children called Nkosi's Haven, founded by Gail Johnson and a testament to the strength of one child.