Nkosi Johnson (born Xolani Nkosi on February 4, 1989(1989-02-04) – June 1, 2001) was a South African child with HIV/AIDS, who made a powerful impact on public perceptions of the pandemic and its effects before his death at the age of 12. He was ranked fifth amongst SABC3's Great South Africans. At the time of his death, he was the longest-surviving HIV-positive born child.
Nkosi was born to Nonthlanthla Daphne Nkosi in a township east of Johannesburg in 1989. He never knew his father. Nkosi was HIV-positive from birth, and was legally adopted by Gail Johnson, a Johannesburg Public Relations practitioner, when his own mother, debilitated by the disease, was no longer able to care for him.
The young Nkosi Johnson first came to public attention in 1997, when a primary school in the Johannesburg suburb of Melville refused to accept him as a pupil because of his HIV-positive status. The incident caused a furor at the highest political level—South Africa's Constitution forbids discrimination on the grounds of medical status—and the school later reversed its decision.
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.
Nkosi was the keynote speaker at the 13th International AIDS Conference, where he encouraged people with HIV/AIDS to be open about the disease and to seek equal treatment. Nkosi finished his speech with the words:
"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!"
Nelson Mandela referred to Nkosi as an "icon of the struggle for life."
Together with his foster mother, Nkosi founded a refuge for HIV positive mothers and their children, Nkosi's Haven, in Johannesburg. In November 2005, Gail represented Nkosi when he posthumously received the International Children's Peace Prize from the hands of Mikhail Gorbachev. Nkosi's Haven received the US $100,000 prize money from the KidsRights Foundation.