Nkosi's legacy lives on at haven

Five years ago, Nkosi Johnson died of Aids at the age of 12—but his legacy lives on at Nkosi’s Haven, a Johannesburg home for HIV-positive mothers and their babies.

Located in the city’s Berea suburb, Nkosi’s Haven has been going for seven years and is now home to more than 90 residents—14 HIV-positive mothers, 51 children and 26 orphans.

“Social workers tried to help me by sending me to other homes.
But all the places they found for me separated me from my children, and I’d rather live on the streets than give them up,” says Emmalinah Sindane.

Sindane is an HIV-positive mother who has been living at Nkosi’s Haven for the past six years. She came to Johannesburg from KwaZulu-Natal to look for a job to support her two children. Instead, she was raped.

Then, while she was pregnant, she became so sick that she couldn’t do anything for herself. A nurse at a local clinic helped her find her way into Nkosi’s Haven.

“Thank God all of my children are negative,” says Sindane.

Jane Mwasa, the house manager of Nkosi’s Haven, explains: “We’re taking a mother and her child here because this is about Nkosi’s mission. When Nkosi died, he felt there are kids who will be suffering because their mothers have died of Aids, which is not a good thing.

“He couldn’t stay with his mom because she died. The bond of a mother and child should be kept together.”

Nkosi was one of South Africa’s longest-surviving children born HIV-positive. He was separated from his HIV-positive mother while he was a toddler, and raised by Gail Johnson.

Gail started Nkosi’s Haven to prevent other HIV-positive mothers from being separated from their children, as Nkosi was.

“Normally what we’re finding is that mothers want their kids to be left under Nkosi’s Haven’s care even if they pass on because they know the future of their kids is secured,” says Mwasa.

Sixteen-year-old Sthandiwe is an orphan who lives at the haven. She is HIV-positive as a result of being raped at the age of 12. At the time, she had no comprehension of what it meant to be HIV-positive.

“I didn’t understand what it means to be HIV[-positive]. I just didn’t understand what [it was]. I realised that I’m really sick; but even if you’re HIV[-positive] you may stay longer—maybe 20 years you can stay,” she says.

Mwasa says Nkosi’s Haven allows the women and their children to enjoy a better quality of life. “They are in a well-accepted environment. The stress is gone and everybody understands them, so that’s why they keep going.”—Health-e

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