SA HIV Activist Nkosi Johnson’s Family Still Wallow In Abject Poverty


The lifetime and memories of South Africa’s famed HIV activist, Nkosi Johnson, is fast fading away from his only biological sister, Mbali Nkosi.

According to embittered Mbali, the 21st International Aids Conference which kick-starts in Durban from Monday brings nothing but pains to her.

Not just the pains of his untimely but also the pains of being neglected; of being deprived of benefiting from his name and legacy.

Mbali believed that as the only surviving sibling of Nkosi, she should have benefited from some initiatives, including a book written about her brother’s life.

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As culled from a Sowetan Live Report, the 29-year-old, who lives in Daveyton, on the East Rand, lamented that her family was not consulted or included in initiatives that involved his name.

“We ask ourselves what is going on every time we see him on television. He is portrayed as if he fell from a tree and had no family,” Mbali said.

Mbali said she recalled how she struggled with her mother and brother in their tender age; how they barely have food and how poverty forced her mother to hand young Nkosi to Gail.

“I am grateful that my mother met Gail Johnson because my brother might not have lived as long as he did.

We lived in a shack. We would go to bed with cabbage and pap or bread and water. The environment was not conducive for his condition.

My mother handed him over to Gail because she had no money and could not afford to buy his medication,” she disclosed.

Nkoli’s biological sister revealed that irrespective of the fact that he was raised by Gail; he knew where he came from.

“He used to visit us and people would ask why he could not speak isiZulu. He knew only three words – yebo, sawubona and kunjani. Those are the words I taught him. He knew his family,” she added.

Mbali Nkosi And Family Still Poor

Disappointed Mbali wailed that since his brother’s death, her family  still wallow in abject poverty.

“I lived with my mother’ s family in an RDP house. We were 17 in the house before me and my three uncles moved out. Now only two people are employed in the house. One is a cleaner and the other a security guard.

Nkosi did not come to us, he was born with us. I had hoped that, my brother being published all over the world at least I would be taken care of.

What hurts me is that he is out there and I am not getting anything from [profits] made out of his name,” she said.

Mbali, who was 14 when her brother died in 2001 says she last visited his brother’s grave at the Johannesburg cemetery five years ago.

Nkosi Johnson was born on 4th February 1989 and he died on 1 June 2001. He was the longest-surviving HIV-positive born child at the time of his death. He was HIV positive from birth.

Check Out: Ramaphosa Making Waves At Tackling HIV Infections Among Young Women

Young Nkosi never knew his father, he lost his mother the same year he started school. He first came to public attention in 1997, when a primary school in the Johannesburg suburb of Melville refused him admission because of his HIV status.

Remarkably, Nkosi was the keynote speaker at the 13th International AIDS Conference. At the conference, he urged people living with HIV/AIDS to seek equal treatment.

Nkosi was later adopted by Gail Johnson, a Johannesburg Public Relations practitioner. Prior to his death, he founded a refuge for HIV positive mothers and their children, Nkosi’s Haven, in Johannesburg, together with his foster-mother.