Hundreds bid farewell to Aids hero

Cape Town- South Africa (PANA) -- Hundeds of mourners on Wednesday paid tribute to 12-year-old Aids activist Nkosi Johnson who died Friday after a lengthy battle against the disease.
At an emotional service at the Central Methodist Church in Johannesburg, the congregation reflected on Nkosi's brief life as well as his heroic struggle.
In Durban, delegates attending the World Economic Forum's (WEF) southern Africa summit honoured Nkosi for his contribution in the fight against HIV/Aids.
A short documentary film on his life was screened at the opening of the plenary session on health, as a tribute to his contribution to the fight against Aids.
WEF managing director Frederic Sicre said the documentary was a tribute to Nkosi's legacy and a means to keep his memory alive "as we face our responsibilities in eradicating the disease from southern Africa".
Nkosi, who was born HIV-positive, suffered a series of seizures in December and his condition deteriorated steadily since then.
At the time of his death, he weighed just 10 kilograms.
Doctors gave Nkosi nine months to live when Gail Johnson adopted him at the age of two after his biological mother died in April 1997.
He attracted national attention shortly after he moved in with Johnson when she fought parents at the predominantly-white school in the Johannesburg suburb of Mellville, to have Nkosi admitted to the school despite his suffering from the disease.
She won the battle and Nkosi became a popular pupil at the school, completing his Standard Four exams last year.
The young boy stole the hearts of thousands of delegates at the International Aids Conference in Durban last July with a widely acclaimed speech which was broadcast around the world.
He told the audience, which included President Thabo Mbeki, that he wanted AZT to be given to HIV-positive pregnant mothers to prevent transmission of the disease to their unborn babies.
Nkosi also addressed an Aids conference in Atlanta, Georgia, last October, before his condition began deteriorating.
Deputy South African President Jacob Zuma said the fact that Nkosi died on International Children's Day was a painful reminder to all that children need love, nurturing, support and protection.
"He possessed courage and determination far beyond his age.
Most significantly, he made the nation recognise the magnitude of the HIV/AIDS problem in a solid and serious way.
He successfully gave a face to HIV/AIDS as it affects the most vulnerable in our society - our children.
"The sad death of this young fighter opens up a challenge to all of us to examine the contribution we can make to reduce the impact of AIDS in our lives and those around us," Zuma said in a eulogy which was read out at the service.
Among the hundreds of people who visited Nkosi in the last few months of his life were former President Nelson Mandela, first lady Zanele Mbeki, Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang and American actor Danny Glover.
Mandela praised Nkosi as an "icon of the struggle for life" and said all South Africans were proud of the bravery he had shown.
President Mbeki applauded Nkosi's bravery, saying his struggle against Aids should spur South African citizens to stand together to fight against the disease.

06 june 2001 18:44:00

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