SAFE HAVEN

With World AIDS Day on 1 December, we speak to Gail Johnson, mother of the late Nkosi Johnson and founding director of an HIV/AIDS residential care centre, Nkosi’s Haven.


Q: TELL US ABOUT NKOSI’S HAVEN
Named after my ‘foster son’ Nkosi Johnson, the young AIDS activist who passed away on 1 June 2001 from an AIDS-related disease, it is a long-term residential care centre for the destitute HIV/AIDS infected mom, her children and AIDS orphans. All children attend school relevant to their abilities, from very special needs to mainstream. At present we have 112 children (82 of them orphans and 36 HIV positive), 28 mothers and 12 caregivers for the orphans.

Q: WHAT IS MOST REWARDING ABOUT YOUR WORK?

The entire project is rewarding but the two things that really make me feel great are seeing the change our sick bay makes in the condition and health of a very sick new arrival and then, of course, the achievements of our children!

Q: YOUR GREATEST CHALLENGE?
We don’t receive any government funding so finance is a daily battle. Our running costs are over 480 00000 a month. Raising that – or trying to – is a serious and very stressful challenge!

Q: TELL US ABOUT ANTONIO BANDERAS HELPING FUNDRAISE FOR NKOSI’S HAVEN.
Antonio has a fragrance line and he has always linked a charity to the launch of his fragrances. He is launching his new perfume for men and women, Secret Temptation, and Nkosi’s Haven was very fortunate to be the nominated charity in SA. We are receiving an R100 00000 donation from his fragrances’ distributing company, African Sales Company, and photographs from his exhibition, ‘Women in Gold’ will be auctioned at a banquet to benefit us. Antonio is a wonderful and very caring person and we are deeply honoured and privileged to be associated with him.

Q: WHY IS WORLD AIDS DAY IMPORTANT?

Prior to the very successful rollout of HIV medications by government, we went through what many considered genocide, with SA having (so unnecessarily) lost so many mothers, fathers and children to AIDS. It is essential that we remember them and, of course, now we have much to celebrate with the exceptionally successful Prevention of Mother-to-child Transmission campaign as well as the ARV rollout!

Q: YOUR MESSAGE TO PEOPLE LIVING WITH HIV/AIDS?
HIV/AIDS is now a manageable disease, but sadly the stigma still remains, as well as denial. If we all could just create an environment of acceptance of the infected, it would make it so much easier for them to be open about their status and ask for the help they may need as well as support in taking their meds. Too many people are still keeping their status secret and hiding their meds, which means they don’t always take them when they should, which is vitally important. This leads to major health issues.

Just accept and don’t judge!

SAFE HAVEN SAFE HAVEN Reviewed by Michelle Pienaar on November 02, 2017 Rating: 5

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