AIDS Activist Nkosi Johnson’s Foster Mother Answers Public’s Questions on BBC’s “Correspondent”
Gail Johnson, foster mother of 12-year-old Nkosi Johnson, the South African boy who delivered a "powerful" speech at last summer's 13th International AIDS Conference in Durban, on Monday took part in a live Web cast, answering the public's emails and addressing critics who charge that she has "expolit[ed]" Nkosi for "financial gain," the BBC's international weekly program "Correspondent" reports ("Correspondent," BBC, 5/17). Nkosi, a black child, has lived with Johnson, a white South African woman, since his mother died of AIDS-related complications when he was three years old. The pair first came to media attention five years ago when Johnson sought to enroll Nkosi in a local primary school and was met with opposition from those who feared "mixing" their children with an HIV-positive child. Since then, Nkosi has become a "potent symbol of hope in the fight against South Africa's devastating epidemic," "Correspondent" reports. Nkosi, who did not have the funds to take antiretroviral medications, "survived on a healthy diet, vitamin supplements and minimizing the stress of being HIV-positive" before experiencing a "series" of brain seizures that left him in a coma at the beginning of the year. Johnson's attempt to "push [Nkosi] center stage" as part of fundraising efforts for care centers for HIV-positive children and their mothers -- called Nkosi's Havens -- prompted criticism from Nkosi's natural family that she was using the child for "financial gain" ("Correspondent," BBC, 5/18). To view the Web cast in which she responds to the public, click here. To listen to the audio version of the Web cast, click here. Note: You must have RealPlayer to view or listen to the Web cast.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.