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Celebrating “the life and legacy of a voice of change”: Google pays tribute to Nkosi Johnson

To remember, celebrate and honour one of the world’s best-known child HIV/AIDS campaigners Google today published a doodle, dedicated to the late South African AIDS activist Nkosi Johnson. Celebrating Nkosi’s remarkable legacy, Google said the “Doodle honors the life and legacy of a voice of change heard by millions around the world”.



Google has honoured the late South African child AIDS activist Nkosi Johnson with a Google doodle.

Nkosi is known and remembered by many across the world as an AIDS activist who challenged public perceptions, and the South African government’s AIDS policies on HIV.

The story of Nkosi galvanised Aids-awareness campaigners. He made a powerful impact on public perceptions of the pandemic, and its effects before his death, and he united millions of South Africans in the fight against the disease.

Nkosi was born on February 4, 1989, and would have turned 31 this year. Johnson died of AIDS-related complications on June 1, 2001, at the age of 12.


In January 2011 just a few months before Nkosi passed away, then South African President Nelson Mandela called the child activist an “icon of the struggle for life”.

At the time, Nkosi was South Africa’s longest surviving HIV-positive-born child.

Google wrote a commemorative statement applauding Nkosi’s bravery and immense contribution to the struggle for equality for children with AIDS.

Know your HIV status Photo: Flickr Jon Rawlinson

Google wrote:

“Care for us and accept us – we are all human beings,” said Nkosi Johnson, the South African activist who courageously campaigned for the equal rights of children with AIDS. Today’s Doodle honors the life and legacy of a voice of change heard by millions around the world.

Xolani Nkosi was born HIV-positive in Johannesburg, South Africa, on this day in 1989. A public relations officer named Gail Johnson soon adopted Nkosi from an AIDS care center with his mother’s blessing. Together, Gail and Nkosi began their historic fight against the autoimmune disease.


When it became time for Nkosi to attend school, he faced discrimination because of his infection. In response, his foster mother organized workshops that educated the South African community about AIDS, and her efforts led Parliament to pass legislation that required schools to uphold anti-discrimination policies that protected children like Nkosi.

This landmark decision sparked Nkosi to speak publicly about what it is like to be a child with AIDS. Audiences around the world heard his speeches, which helped destigmatize the global perspective on those affected by the disease. Together with Gail, they established Nkosi’s Haven, an NGO still active today that provides a safe home and healthcare for families affected by AIDS.

Unfortunately, Nkosi died in 2001 at the age of 12. In honor of his bravery, the KidsRight organization created the International Children’s Peace Prize in 2005. Each year the award—a “Nkosi” statuette, is —given to a young winner celebrated for promoting children’s rights.