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UN officials mourn passing of Nkosi Johnson, young hero in fight against AIDS

UN officials mourn passing of Nkosi Johnson, young hero in fight against AIDS

United Nations officials today mourned the passing of Nkosi Johnson, a 12-year old South African boy who is credited with breaking the silence about HIV/AIDS in his country while embodying hope for a better future.

"Nkosi was an inspiration to many people beyond South Africa," said Secretary-General Kofi Annan on learning of the death of the young activist.

The Joint UN Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) reacted to the news by saying the world has lost "a champion, a hero in the fight against AIDS."

"In his short life, he strove hard for the removal of stigma and discrimination that so many people suffer as a result of this disease," the agency said in a statement released in Geneva. "His call at the 13th International AIDS Conference in Durban in July 2000 last year for HIV-positive people to be treated equally will be remembered in history as a turning point in the fight against AIDS."

"His life and death, like many others who silently die as a result of AIDS each day, bring home the urgency of the tasks that still need to be done," the agency stressed.

The UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) hailed Nkosi as a "courageous boy who moved a continent."

"He stood up before a distracted world and told us who he was - a boy who was sick, but a still a boy, still a human being to be valued and cared for," said the agency's Executive Director, Carol Bellamy.

Ms. Bellamy called on the global community to exhibit "the same courage and leadership shown by Nkosi" during the General Assembly special session on HIV/AIDS, which opens later this month, and the special session on children, set to take place in September.