South African Playwright Applauded for Revealing HIV Status
February 24, 2003
South African playwright Gibson Kente was lauded Friday for publicly revealing his HIV-positive status. Politicians, a judge, AIDS activists and former President Nelson Mandela applauded Kente for his announcement, which they hoped would be emulated by others. Kente, whose plays include "Manana, The Jazz Prophet," "How Long," "Sikhalo" and "Lifa," said he would write a play about his status. "I plan to travel with the production around the country and inspire people who are either affected or infected by the disease," Kente said Thursday at a Johannesburg news conference. "I want you to trust me. Trust me to be strong, because I want to stand out as a paragon of strength," he said.Adapted from:
Many of South Africa's 4.7 million people with HIV are unwilling to have their status known for fear of being stigmatized. A few years ago, Gugu Dlamini, one the first South Africans to publicly admit she was HIV-positive, was stoned to death. But since his announcement, Kente has been inundated with support.
"People should not feel that they will be discriminated against when they reveal their status," said Mandela, according to a local newspaper. "We will definitely need people like Gibson to come out and speak about the pandemic." Constitutional Court Judge Edwin Cameron, who himself is HIV-positive, praised Kente for his stand. Patricia de Lille, a Pan Africanist lawmaker and outspoken campaigner of HIV/AIDS issues, pledged to support Kente's efforts to destigmatize the epidemic. "I want to congratulate him for his bravery and courage," de Lille said. "I know he's doing it to encourage more people to come out and do the same."