Xolani Johnson was born on 4 February 1989 with HIV and
was the longest surviving child born with the virus in
the country. His mother has since died of Aids, and he
was adopted when he was two by a foster mother, Gail
In the absence of money for drugs, Nkosi had survived on
a healthy diet, vitamin supplements and minimising the
stress of being HIV positive. Ms Johnson attempted to
give him a purpose by turning him into a spokesman for
Aids awareness at a time when the country's infected
population was silenced by the suffocating stigma of
fear and prejudice. But for Nkosi, who had seen his real
mother die of Aids, the frightening inevitability of his
own impending death was never far away.
Speaking before his death Ms Johnson said: "We chatted
about death... He had strong feelings about letting me
down," she said.
"I told him I would miss him and no one could take his
Nkosi will be particularly remembered for a speech he
made at the World Aids Conference in Durban in July
2000. He told delegates:
"You can't get Aids by hugging, kissing, holding hands.
We are normal human beings, we can walk, we can talk."
He also scolded South African President Thabo Mbeki on
his government's failure to provide drugs, which caused
the miffed president to leave during the speech. He
later told the BBC:
"I feel I am going to die quickly, like my mother died,
very soon. But at least she got to be a grown-up. I hate
having this disease."
In December 2000 Nkosi had a relapse and remained
critical until his death. On 1 June 2001 a Johnson
family spokesman said that Nkosi died at 0540 local time
(0340 GMT) after a desperate final battle against the
disease. Ms Johnson said:
''He's given Aids a face and allowed people who are
still afraid of being associated with Aids to grieve
openly. Most importantly perhaps, his fight and his
bravery have given hope to many, many people."
Former South African president Nelson Mandela said he
was an example for the whole world to follow. Mr Mandela
"It's a great pity that this young man has departed. He
was exemplary in showing how one should handle a
disaster of this nature. He was very bold about it and
he touched many hearts."