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The BBC's Alan Little
"Part birthday party - part wake "
 real 56k

Sunday, 4 February, 2001, 15:42 GMT
Aids boy too ill for birthday
Nkosi and Gail Johnson
Gail Johnson with Nkosi - who can no longer move unaided
The South African boy whose plight has dramatised the Aids epidemic in South Africa was 12 years old on Sunday - but was too ill to attend his own birthday party.

Nkosi Johnson, who collapsed with Aids-related brain damage in December, spent the day in bed, unable to eat or speak.

Nkosi Johnson
Nkosi: "We are normal human beings"
Doctors say that they can do nothing more for him, and he is not expected to live much longer.

Nkosi spoke up for Aids and HIV sufferers at the World Aids Conference in Durban last July, with an appeal for people not to reject the estimated 10% of South Africa's 45m people who are HIV-positive.

"You can't get Aids by hugging, kissing, holding hands. We are normal human beings, we can walk, we can talk," he told delegates.

He also called on the South African Government to provide anti-retroviral drugs to HIV-positive pregnant mothers.

Nkosi was born with HIV and is the longest surviving child born with the virus in the country.

His mother has since died of Aids, and he was adopted when he was two by a foster mother, Gail Johnson.

Cake cut

A birthday party was held for Nkosi at the school he used to attend, and Ms Johnson cut the cake in his absence.

She said she had not expected him to reach his 12th birthday and was grateful that he had survived to celebrate it.

When he was two, Nkosi was given nine months to live.

He has survived for another decade, but he is now unable to talk, support his head or move on his own.

Nkosi is semi-conscious, and takes nourishment in the form of liquidised fruit through a tube.

"I have reassured him I will cope and his mummy is waiting for him. He has seen his relatives and knows there is peace with them," Ms Johnson said.

"We chatted about death before he had the seizures. He had strong feelings about letting me down," she said.

"I told him I would miss him and no one could take his place."

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See also:

10 Jan 01 | Africa
Child Aids icon close to death
10 Jan 01 | Africa
Aids threat to SA education
14 Jan 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Words of hope from child Aids victim
19 Apr 00 | Health
South Africa Aids crisis worsens
20 Sep 00 | Africa
Mbeki digs in on Aids
10 Jul 00 | Africa
Stark warning over Aids apathy
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