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Google Honors Late South African Child Activist, Nkosi Johnson, With Doodle

Today's Google Doodle celebrates the life and work of Nkosi Johnson, a child HIV/AIDS activist, who passed away at the age of 12.

Today marks what would have been the 31st birthday of South African child activist Nkosi Johnson.

Johnson, whose work focused on raising awareness around HIV/AIDs in the early 2000s, at a time when the disease was still incredibly stigmatised and seen as a "death sentence", passed away from complications related to AIDS at the age of 12.

He was the longest-surviving HIV-positive born child at that time.


Johnson received international attention following his address to thousands of delegates at the 13th International Aids Conference in Durban back in 2001. There, his heartfelt words which centred on dispelling the stigma and superstitions around the illness captured the world. "Hi, my name is Nkosi Johnson," He began. "I am 11 years old and I have full-blown Aids. I was born HIV-positive...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."

He took his message across the world, travelling to an AIDS conference held in Atlanta, Georgia in the US at one point. Following his death, his adopted mother, Gail Johnson, established Nkosi's Haven, a non-profit organisation (NPO) which has carried on his legacy through providing a sanctuary for mothers and children affected by HIV/AIDS.

OkayAfrica spoke briefly to Johnson who, while delighted by Google honoring her son, paints a grim picture not only for the future of Nkosi's Haven, but for NPOs in general based in South Africa. "Where we're at with [Nkosi's] legacy is exhaustion, running out of money...but we're coping."

Tasked with answering what South Africans could do to better the situation, she says, "Non-profits just do such necessary work because they've been established because there's a gap in the community. Every one of the non-profits that I deal with or know of—everyone needs help. While AIDS is now a chronic, manageable disease and people might not think that it's urgent, there are children who are suffering. There are children who are in need and still you have to beg for support. That's a bitter pill to swallow."

Describing her biggest hope for Nkosi's legacy, Johnson concludes by saying, "I hope that we survive...that I can retire in peace. Whoever takes over from me and keeps Nkosi's legacy going, [I hope] that they have the same passion and energy to keep it going because he stood for so much."

To learn more about Nkosi's Haven and how you can support their work, click here.

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