The AIDS Diaries Have Ended: RIP Thembi Ngubane

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african sunset

“Hi, this is Thembi. Every morning when I wake up I run off to my drawer, take out the mirror and look at myself. Then I start to do my prayer. I say it every day every time when I am feeling angry.

I say, ‘Hello HIV, you trespasser. You are in my body, you have to obey their rules. You have to respect me and if you don’t hurt me, I won’t hurt you. You mind your business and I will mind mine and I will give you a ticket when your time comes.'”
That is the way that Thembi Ngubane began the radio diaries of her battle with AIDS in a nation where almost a third of the women are infected with the virus. That battle came to an end last Thursday when Ms. Ngubane passed away from tuberculosis.
While she was alive, Ms. Ngubane was an exemplar of radio’s vitality. Her open and honest portrayal of HIV positive life in a nation where the stigmata against AIDS is so strong that victims often do not even tell their closest friends or relations of the illness has reached over 50 million people via broadcast in the USA, Australia, Britain, and Canada. Since her 21st birthday in 2006 when the first of the diaries aired, she has created awareness and dialogue where it did not exist. All because of the power of radio to reach out and share human moments, providing context through a sense of connection.
Claire Nullis from the Associated Press has a small article in The Washington Post that includes Ms. Ngubane’s comments on how vital it was to her to get the word out about AIDS:
“Our parents struggled against apartheid, they wanted to be free. And it is the same with HIV/AIDS. This is the new struggle,” she said. “Finding the courage to speak out in South Africa is the most important thing I have done,” she said.

And get the word out she did, as stated earlier her broadcasts have reached 50 million people across the globe. Not only did she bring them information, but using radio as her medium she gave that information humanity. Tone of voice, inflection, and emotion forge a connection with listeners that is harder to achieve with other media. Her voice, heard through headphones and speakers around the world, shared her first conversations with her parents about AIDS. An audioscape developed rapidly as she shared trips to African clinics and timeĀ  playing with her daughter as well as many other aspects of a life soon to be cut tragically short.

Ms. Ngubane did not live to see her 25th birthday. Before she passed on, she did share a story that will save other lives, and our fondest farewells go with her.

Photo courtesy of Rob inhOOd, used under its Creative Commons license

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