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South Africa loses feisty AIDS activist, poignant digital diarist

June 17, 2009

This happened last week, but I only just caught up: 24-year-old Thembi Ngubane died last Thursday, after becoming an incredible force for fighting HIV/AIDS.

She did this in part by recording a year in her life living with AIDS, as part of Joe Richman’s Radio Diaries series. Her story starts:

“Every morning, when I wake up, I run to my drawer, take out my mirror, and look at myself. Then I start to do my prayer. I say it every day, every time I feel angry…. I say, ‘Hello, HIV. You trespassor. You are in my body. You have to obey the rules. You have to respect me, and if you don’t hurt me, I won’t hurt you. You mind your business, I’ll mind mine. Then I’ll give you a ticket, when your time comes.”

She became popular worldwide, did great work with UNICEF all over the place, came to the States–but the real magic of this project may be this:

“In March 2007, Thembi’s AIDS Diary was heard in South Africa for the first time – in English, Xhosa and Zulu. Thembi and Radio Diaries toured South Africa, presenting her story at high schools, universities, community clinics, Constitution Hill, and Parliament. You can read about the tour and see photos on Thembi’s Blog.”

Quite a life.

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