14 activists who went out of their way to fight AIDS.

16 people who were touched and shaped the AIDS pandemic in Africa

Reading Time: 7 minutes

We are all not infected but we are all affected

Every week, around 5500 young women aged 15–24 years are infected with HIV according to UNAIDS. Such is the  veracity and ferocity of  this disease which was first reported around 1920 in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo).

Since then the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has been killing kings and mortals alike in their millions worldwide who later develop AIDS.

According to recent statistics, South Africa, with more than 7 million people living with HIV/AIDS, remains one of the most affected countries in the world.

Enter Heroes and Heroines

Like in every war, heroes and heroines are bound to emerge and countless men and women have since rolled up their sleeves and are fighting the virus and all the stigma it comes with with valor.

To some it is deeply personal having been victims themselves or know someone close to heart suffering from the disease while to some they simply can’t imagine sitting and doing nothing as HIV/AIDs continue to ravage societies.

Also Read: 9 African countries where it is a pain to be a woman

Going public about their +statues was the boldest move for some since it went a long way to raise awareness and humanize the disease and reduce the deeply crippling stigma attached to AIDS.

Some have also set up charities and are running projects all over the world aimed at reducing the risk of transmission and spread of the disease in Africa.

Erotic Africa went on a historical journey to recognize some of the most notable and public figures who are fighting AIDS.

Fana Khaba (Khabzela)

In 2003 the then YFM DJ, Fana Khaba populary known as Khabzela disclosed that he was positive live on air.  A month before he died in 2004, he was given the National Builder’s Award in recognition of his contribution to the fight against HIV/Aids.

The award was sponsored by B3 Funeral Services – and part of the prize is a free burial when he dies.

The company gave Khabzela the award in recognition of his contribution to the fight against HIV and Aids and his will to live.

Khabzela used his popularity in Radio to sensitive the public about the virus.

Lesego Motsepe

Popular for starring Lettie Matabane on Isidingo, the actress disclosed her HIV status on Kaya FM on World Aids Day in 2011.

She, however, attracted significant controversy in 2012 when she discontinued her antiretroviral therapy, in favour of alternative medicine promoted by deceased former health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang.

The star sadly passed away in 2014 but not before her life providing invaluable lesson on managing the disease.

Musa “Queen” Njoko

This popular Gospel artist, who was 22 when she was diagnosed, went public about her HIV-positive status in 1995 – at a time when treatment was not available in South Africa. She faced a lot of stigma and hostility but also found support to live a long and healthy life in spite of the disease.

Abdurrazack “Zackie” Achmat

Born on 21st March 1962, Zachie is a South African activist and film director. He is the co-founder of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) and known worldwide for his activism on behalf of people living with HIV and AIDS in South Africa.

He currently serves as Board member and Co-director of Ndifuna Ukwazi (Dare to Know), an organisation which aims to build and support social justice organisations and leaders, and is the Chairperson of Equal Education.

Achmat publicly reveled his HIV+ positive status in 1998 and refused to take antiretroviral drugs until all who needed them had access to them. He held on his pledge until August 2003 when a national congress of TAC activists voted to urge him to begin antiretroviral treatment.

He then agreed to start treatment shortly before the government announced to make antiretroviral in the public sector. What a Hero!

Gideon Byamugisha

Reverend Canon Gideon Byamugisha (born 1959) is an Anglican priest in Uganda with a parish outside the city of Kampala.

In 1992, he became the first religious leader in Africa to publicly announce that he was HIV positive. In 2009, Byamugisha received the 26th annual Niwano Peace Prize “in recognition of his work to uphold the dignity and human rights of people living with HIV/AIDS”.

Byamugisha claims that he never felt guilty about his status; “The only regret I have is that I lacked information. I have all this education—two degrees, one first class—but I failed a HIV test.”

He has since worked as an advisor to World Vision and has travelled internationally to speak about HIV/AIDS, including to a conference at the US White House in December 2002.

Also Read: HAPA Kenya shed light on how they are empowering Kenyans to live positively

Nkosi Johnson

Nkosi Johnson is the poster child of HIV/AIDS. Born Xolani on 4th February 1989 – 1 June 2001) Nkosi was a South African child born with HIV and AIDS who greatly influenced public perceptions of the pandemic and its effects before his death at the age of 12.

He came into public attention after a primary school in Johannesburg suburb refused to enroll him as a pupil due to his HIV+ status

He was ranked fifth amongst SABC3’s Great South Africans. At the time of his death, he was the longest-surviving child born HIV-positive in South Africa.

Beatrice Were

(Born circa 1966) Were is a Ugandan AIDS activist. She discovered that she was HIV-positive in 1991, a month after her husband died of AIDS.

In 1993, she co-founded the non-governmental organization NACWOLA – National Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS in Uganda to unite all Ugandan women living with HIV and to improve the quality of their lives.

She has since served as national coordinator of NACWOLA, and as the Executive Coordinator of the International Community of Women Living with HIV/AIDS, Uganda.

Were was awarded InterAction Humanitarian Award in 2003. She has also won the Human Rights Defender Award, the highest honor bestowed by Human Rights Watch.

She is currently National Coordinator for HIV/AIDS for ActionAid Uganda, and also a Global HIV/Aids Policy & Advocacy Advisor for OXFAM based in Pretoria, South Africa.

Oliver Mtukudzi

In 2019, legendary Zimbabwean Musician Oliver Mtukudzi breathed his last at the age of 66.While the cause if his death was heart failure related to diabetes, according toDamon Forbes, a music promoter and record executive  who had worked with Mr. Mtukudzi for more than 20 years, ‘Tuku‘ as he was fondly referred to his fans across the globe was never shy about his positive HIV status.

He went ahead and wrote several songs including Todii and Tapera, which spoke of the scourge of the disease in Africa and especially among young people.

Fella Kuti

One of the pioneers of Afrobeat, this Nigerian legend and political activist died due to AIDS related complications in 1997. Fella’s funeral attended by more than a million people at the site of old shine compound. Some people, however, refute this and insist he was killed due to his activism work touching on politics writing and singing.

Fella was a traditionist and a polygamist; he at one point even married 27 women at once, in his Lawyer’s office defending the process as the traditional (tribal) African way of caring the women who needs protection.

Binyavanga Wainaina

Until his death in 2019, he was one of Africa’s best-known authors and gay rights activists. Binyavanga, who won the 2002 Caine Prize for African writing, hit international headlines in 2014 after he came out of the closest in a short essay titled I am homosexual, mum published to mark his 43rd birthday. In the essay he revealed he was HIV positive and castigated a wave of anti-gay laws taking root in Africa.

One of Binyavanga most famous works  is his bitting essay – How to Write About Africa,  which included the advice: “Always use the word ‘Africa’ or ‘Darkness’ or ‘Safari’ in your title.

Elton John

Apart from his soulful voice, Elton john is big on AIDS.

He founded the Elton John AIDS Foundation in the United States in 1992 and in the United Kingdom in 1993. The non-profit organization provides philanthropic support to the global AIDS crisis and has raised more than $350 million over the past 24 years.

Since then he has been working on numerous AIDS projects in Africa and his most recent visit to the continent was to Durban, South Africa, in 2016.

“If we want HIV programs to work for young people, we can’t tell them what to do or think. We need to nurture their voices. Don’t let an older generation lecture you. Make us listen to you. Tell us what your needs are and what skills and services you need, and we’ll help you”  He said at the 21st International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.

Alicia Keys

Keys was first exposed to the problems facing people living with HIV/AIDS as a young girl when her mother’s friend passed from AIDS related complications.

Over a decade later, in 2003, Keys came face to face to the epidemic’s devasting impact while on a visit to South Africa. Here she saw first hand just how deadly the virus is and got inspired to create the organization called Keep a Child Alive to help children and families deal with the effects of HIV/AIDS.

Moreover, her organization’s annual fundraiser, Black Ball, raised approximately $2.4 million in 2014.

Magic Johnson

Johnson is one of the first celebrities to disclose his HIV status to the world in 1991 after being diagnosed at 32.

Over 25 years later, Johnson has made good on his plan. While still involved in sports as a commentator, he also started the Magic Johnson Foundation, an educational organization whose aim is to prevent the spread of HIV

He is now 57 and an icon to everyone that when taking a good care of the body, can live longer than expected. He has his own organization called Magic Johnson Foundation that works on helping to stop spread of the disease, worldwide.

Charlie Sheen

Popular American star who starred in the film Wall steer (1987) and series Two and a half men is HIV+.

Charlie announced his status publicly on November 2015, a reaction that resulted to Sheen Effect, as American googling of HIV/AIDS and its related issues with hits of 2.75m than expected, .

The researchers say the ‘Sheen effect’ should be capitalised on, to further raise HIV awareness.

Charlize Theron

An Oscar winning actress, Charlize Theron created the Charlize Theron Africa Outreach Project (CTAOP) in 2007 in an effort to support African youth in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
The projected organization mainly focused on helping the case in Africa (Sub Saharan) but primarily based in South Africa with (hugely) support of Trevor Noah, Chelsea Handler and Mary McCormack
CTAOP provides support to community based organizations through direct grants and networking.

Desmond Tutu

Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu is a patron of the Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation, housed within the Desmond Tutu HIV Centre (DTHC) at the University of Cape Town.
It is committed to the pursuit of excellence in research, treatment, training and prevention of HIV and related infections in Southern Africa.
In 2018 CTAOP announced a new program in which they will provide educational scholarships for young girls living with HIV/AIDS in South Africa.

Video

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