Humanitarian hero Nkosi Johnson managed to focus the world's attention on the immense suffering of victims of AIDS by delivering an address at the World AIDS Conference that moved delegates to tears. Years after his tragic death, Nkosi Johnson's story gives a face to the plight of many South Africans.

Did you know?

Nkosi Johnson met his father for the first time at his birth mother's funeral.

In 1989 a boy is born to a HIV-infected mother. Before his first breath, the boy is infected with a disease that kills most children by the age of two. Despite coming into the world fatherless, poor and ill, Nkosi Johnson defies all odds with great willpower and an abundance of love. Twelve years after his birth, Nkosi Johnson dies a humanitarian icon.

Born Xolani Nkosi to HIV-infected Nonthlanthla Daphne Nkosi, this remarkable South African is admitted to an AIDS care centre in Johannesburg in 1991. Volunteer worker Gail Johnson immediately forms a special bond with the sick boy. With his mother's health deteriorating at an alarming rate, Gail Johnson and Nonthlanthla Nkosi agree that Johnson's home would be the best place for Nkosi.

In 1997 Nkosi's birth mother dies of an AIDS-related illness. In the same year a Johannesburg suburban primary school opposes Nkosi's admission because of his illness after some parents complain. By publically announcing the discrimination, Nkosi Johnson becomes one of the key figures in an ongoing South African AIDS awareness campaign.

With Johnson and Nkosi winning a case against the school, provincial education departments across South Africa are forced to revise their existing policies regarding school admissions.

In July 2000 humanitarian figure Nkosi Johnson moves delegates from all over the world to tears wearing a black suit and sneakers at the World AIDS Conference. By relating his own tragic story, Nkosi Johnson highlights the plight of many South Africans suffering from this illness.

In the course of his short speech, Nkosi Johnson becomes a South African humanitarian hero. The meek voice of a 12 year-old boy continues to echo the words, 'Care for us and accept us − we are all human beings'.

He was posthumously awarded the International Children’s Peace Price in 2005.

His legacy lives on through Nkosi’s Haven, a care centre in Johannesburg that houses and supports HIV-positive mothers and children.

Travel tips & Planning info

Who to contact

Nkosi's Haven
Tel: +27 (0)11 942 5580

Related articles