Nkosi Johnson was born on this day some 31 years ago. He was a South African child who was born with HIV/AIDs, and who made a big impact in creating awareness and changing public perceptions of that pandemic before he died at the age of 12. At that time, he was the longest-surviving child who was born HIV positive.
Nkosi was rejected as a pupil in school because of his HIV status, which caused great controversy because the constitution at that time was against any form of discrimination. His mother passed on that year, but he soldiered on with the help of medication and treatment.
Nkosi’s birth mother died of HIV/AIDS in the same year that he started school. His own condition steadily worsened over the years, although, with the help of medication and treatment, he was able to lead a fairly active life at school and at home.
“Care for us and accept us — we are all human beings. We are normal. We have hands. We have feet. We can walk, we can talk, we have needs just like everyone else — don’t be afraid of us — we are all the same!”Nkosi Johnson
The Wuhan virus may or may not carry with it the same level of stigma that HIV/AIDs carries. But right now, around the world there are reports of discrimination against Chinese, some of whom have never been to Wuhan, let alone China. Xenophobia rears its ugly head when there is ignorance and misinformation. Even at home in China, those who are from Wuhan are shunned by other mainland Chinese.
Nkosi Johnson came to symbolise the struggle that is part and parcel of life. There are circumstances that we are born into that are beyond our control. We did not choose our parents or the genes and diseases we are born with. We did not choose our skin color or the way we look, even though some of us have the means to change some of it with cosmetic surgery.
Most of those infected with the Corona virus were not infected by choice, but were simply around when it happened. We should all offer some empathy and kindness, for we are all fellow sojourners in this brief journey on this blue globe. For a moment we breathe, and in a moment we are no more, like a mist that dissipates at noon after a chilly morn’. So we might as well be nicer to one another.