Luyanda Ngcobo

HIV/Aids activist

Remember Nkosi Johnson? Actually, how can we ever forget? Nine years after his poignant speech at the International Aids Conference in 2000 and his death the following year, he remains a powerful inspiration to South Africans living with the pandemic. Being the brave face of HIV/Aids in a country where stigmas abound and government policy is still inadequate was no easy task, but Nkosi personified hope and courage instead of a death sentence. At this year's South Africa's Aids Conference, 16-year-old Luyanda Ngcobo displayed that same steely bravery while delivering the Nkosi Johnson Memorial Lecture. Like Nkosi, Luyanda was born HIV positive but is determined to not let the virus get in the way of his dreams. "HIV can never be an excuse for not becoming what you want to become in life,� he said, receiving a standing ovation from the audience and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Ngcobo has been frequenting hospitals since the age of 5. He still remembers the taste of TB medication, which he took for six months during 1997 after getting infected with the bacterium. He started school in 1999 but a constant fever and diarrhoea kept him at home most days. He had to drop out around June and fell terribly ill in December. Despite spending a huge part of his childhood in hospital beds and on medication, Ngcobo enjoys his life to the full. He resumed school in 2001, and excels in his subjects, especially English. "I always want to be a leader, not a follower,� he says. He finds time every day forhomework, video games, quality time with his mother and, most importantly, his antiretroviral medication. Ngcobo knows that he will have to continue taking them every day for the rest of his life. "That's my only challenge,� he says confidently. � Qudsiya Karrim

Lunch spot: Spur Steak Ranch, Waterfront, Cape Town