Nkosi’s battle finally over

Young Nkosi Johnson’€™s long and exhausting battle against AIDS is finally over. 12 year old Nkosi, one of the most inspiring AIDS ambassadors the world will ever see, died peacefully in his sleep at 5.40am this morning (Friday, June 1).

Nkosi stole the hearts of thousands at the opening ceremony at the 13th International Aids conference in Durban last July.

“We are normal human beings, we can walk and talk. You can’€™t get Aids by hugging, kissing and holding hands”, Nkosi said to a standing ovation.

He spoke about the urgency to provide AZT to HIV pregnant mothers to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus to their unborn babies.

Nkosi became infected from his mother, Daphne, during his birth. When she was too ill to care for him, AIDS activist Gail Johnson, became his foster-mom.

Nkosi became one of the country’€™s most famous children after Gail enrolled him at a primary school in Melville and some parents objected to his enrolment when she disclosed that he was HIV positive. The case forced the Gauteng Education Department to draw up a policy document to deal with similar cases in future and Nkosi was enrolled at Melpark Primary where he completed grade four.

In an interview towards the end of last year, the contradictions between being a young boy and having to be a brave soldier, could clearly be heard.

“My mother has told me that heaven is a very happy place. My other mother is in heaven.

“I think heaven is a nice place. I think I will be a handsome guy and I will see my mother, I think we’€™ll dance.

“In many years I will see my mom in heaven, but I don’€™t wanna die now. The worst thing is that I get sick’€¦badly’€¦from the diarrhoea. I’€™m scared I’€™m gonna die, that I’€™m not gonna live.”

Nkosi collapsed shortly after Christmas (December 29) last year. But his relationship with his foster-mom, Gail Johnson, and many friends, was open, filled with humour and mature. Death and the harshness of suffering from AIDS was often debated in the Johnson household, completely acknowledged and dealt with in a mature manner.

As is clear in the conversation they had in the bath one evening shortly before the seizures worsened and left him in a comatose state in their home in Melville. “What will happen to you Mommy, if I had to die,” he asked. And her answer: “I will be fine darling. I will continue the work you have started.”

Gail said this morning that Nkosi had died peacefully in his sleep at 5.40am. She said he seemed somewhat uncomfortable last night.

The night nurse woke Johnson at 5am. “His eyes were open, but they were fixed,” she said.

Nkosi’€™s doctor, Hoosen Coovadia, declared him dead shortly before 7am.

Nkosi was thrust into the media spotlight one final time on Thursday afternoon after a woman who claims to be a reflexologist and doctor laid a complaint with the Human Rights Commission claiming that the child was “better” and that Gail did not want the public to know that.

Hilda Khoza, who later admitted that she had no medical qualifications, but was in fact a sangoma, told journalists that Nkosi was fit to go to school, but that his foster mother did not allow him to do so.

Khoza said she had diagnosed Nkosi as suffering from constipation after seeing him on television. She could not be reached for comment on Nkosi’€™s death this morning.

As news reached the public, people started gathering in the street in front of the house.

Many people were touched by this young boy’€™s life.

“Care about Aids, and love people all the same’€¦.Support, love, care for them, look after them. No matter what, you cant die by touching them,” he said at the AIDS conference.

“He is at peace. It’€™s his turn now,” an emotional Gail said this morning.

Nkosi Johnson’€™s pain is over, his life here is over, but he has left a formidable message, a call for dignity and love for those not just dying, but living with AIDS.

Also read “A love letter to Nkosi”


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