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“AIDS is not going to bring me down”-Thembi Ngubane, 1985-2009

June 8, 2009
In remembrance: Thembi Ngubane, 1985-2009

In remembrance:

Thembi Ngubane, 1985-2009

Thembi Ngubane, an AIDS activist from South Africa, died this past Thursday after being diagnosed last week from TB. While Ngubane is no more important than the other people living with HIV/AIDS, she did allow other people to listen to her AIDS experiences for one year in a radio diary in conjunction with NPR. You can listen to some of her diaries here.

NPR Radio Producer Joe Richman approached her in 2004 with a tape recorder where she recorded an “intimate audio diary that brings listeners into her home, among her family, to witness her daily struggles and triumphs” (an article from One of her frustrations in dealing with the disease was telling her boyfriend (“What if I infect him?” she asks in her radio diary) and how her mother should not be taking care of her, but how she should be taking care of her mother:

My mother, she clothed me, fed me, raised me, and now, at the end of the day, she must also bury me. I was supposed to be the one who was going to look after her…. That is not right.

Her biggest frustration of all was hiding the disease. Segments from her diary aired in the U.S., U.K, Australia and Canada reaching 50 million people. Finally in 2007, her story was heard in South Africa for the first time (in English, Zulu, and Xhosa). She traveled to the U.S. and U.K. to address the problem of AIDS (became a UNICEF ambassador, addressed the British Parliament, etc.) and allow other people to not hide living with HIV/AIDS. One of Thembi’s listeners said of Thembi’s story:

Thembi inspired me, enlightened me, made me cry, and made me laugh. To be so far away, I can hear her story and see her pictures and she is not foreign to me. She is African and I am African-American but we are sisters because her spirit reminds me of my mother, my sister, and so many strong vibrant women in my life. The best thing about her story was that I didn’t feel sorry for her but simply and wonderfully inspired by her. To be a better person, become more selfless, and to give more. My prayers are with her and Africa. –Listener from Rowlett, Texas

Below is a short video about Thembi Ngubane living with AIDS:

By recording her experience living with HIV/AIDS, it allows other people and their family members to discuss a different aspect of HIV/AIDS that does not get widely discussed: What is it like for someone living with HIV/AIDS? Thembi’s diaries will live on and continue to speak to members of the HIV/AIDS community and their family members.

RIP Thembi Ngubane.

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