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Nkosi Johnson

by Toree from Spokane

“You can't get AIDS by hugging, kissing, holding hands. We are normal. We are human beings. We can walk, we can talk.... We have needs just like everyone else. We are all the same.” Nkosi Johnson

Nkosi Johnson became my Hero after reading his life story and what he accomplished before he died at age 12. Nkosi was born February 4, 1989 in a township east of Johannesburg in South Africa with HIV and died of AIDS June 1, 2001. At the time of his death "he was the longest surviving child with AIDS in South Africa." Nkosi Johnson was quoted just before his death, "Do all you can with what you have in the time you have, in the place you are."

Nkosi and Mommy Gail
Nkosi and Mommy Gail

Nkosi was legally adopted by Gail Johnson, a Johannesburg Relations practitioner, after his mother was unable to take care of him due to her illness with AIDS. Together Gail and Nkosi fought for his health, his right to go to school and awareness to help others with the disease. His dream was to open care centers for mothers and their babies with AIDS “so they can be together and live longer with the love that they need” (Nkosi).


I chose caring as the character trait Nkosi represented. He spent his life unselfishly worrying about others who shared his disease and what he could do to help them. He inspired the world when he spoke about his life with AIDS at the 13th International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa. His dream came true when the first AIDS care center for mothers and their children opened in his name, Nkosi’s Haven.

Nkosi once said he wished he were a white person because he never saw a white person get sick. Dr. Zola Skweyiya, Minister for Social Development, warned that the AIDS epidemic could result in blacks becoming a minority in their own country. Nkosi’s strength and courage are what heroes are made of. He didn’t let his illness stop him from making a difference in the world and accomplishing more in 12 years than most people accomplish in a lifetime. I also see his adopted mother Gail as his hero. Without her, Nkosi wouldn’t have lived as long and accomplished his dreams.

Page created on 9/14/2007 12:00:00 AM

Last edited 9/14/2007 12:00:00 AM

Related Links

The Nkosi Johnson AIDS Foundation - Site for foundation information