May 03, 2007
Thembi's AIDS Diary: Where Is She Now?
BY Stephen Talbot
Thembi's AIDS Diary: A Year in the Life of a South African Teenager.
Last year, we posted a memorable, very personal Dispatch by Thembi Ngubane, an extraordinary 20-year-old South African who is living with AIDS. It was adapted from an award-winning public radio documentary.
Since many FRONTLINE/World Web visitors wrote to us about Thembi Ngubane's story, we thought you might like to read what has happened to her since then.
The following comes to us from Joe Richman of Radio Diaries, the producer of "Thembi's AIDS Diary."
It was a year ago that "Thembi's AIDS Diary" was first broadcast on National Public Radio. Over the past year, Thembi's diary has been broadcast in South Africa (in English, Xhosa, and Zulu), Australia, Canada, the U.K., and on the BBC World Service, reaching an estimated 50 million listeners around the world. Thembi has traveled across the U.S. and South Africa presenting her story in high schools, universities, clinics, and large public events. Along the way, Thembi met Senator Barack Obama, former President Bill Clinton, and hundreds of young people infected or affected by the disease.
Thembi stood in front of 900 teenagers and worked the crowd in a way we've never seen before. "Something came over me that day. I saw myself in that girl. And I knew that my words were changing how those students saw people with HIV/AIDS."
But the high point was two weeks ago, when Thembi was invited to address South Africa's Parliament. "Accept that AIDS is here," she told the country's leaders. The Sunday Independent newspaper reported that Thembi's presentation was "compelling" and a "step in the right direction" for a country that has been "grappling for years with institutional silence on AIDS."
That same day, Thembi went to a high school in the township of Masiphumelele, outside of Cape Town. A 16-year-old HIV-positive girl at the school was being harassed by students, to the point where she had tried to commit suicide. Thembi stood in front of 900 teenagers and worked the crowd in a way we've never seen before. Thembi had the students laughing, chanting, and crying. "Something came over me that day." Thembi told us later. "I saw myself in that girl. And I knew that my words were changing how those students saw people with HIV/AIDS."
We encourage you to check out Thembi's blog. It is a funny, insightful, and very personal account of Thembi's tour of South Africa over the past month.
You can also hear the full audio diary, see photos taken over the past year by Thembi's boyfriend, Melikhaya, and watch a short film about the South Africa tour (including clips from Parliament).
We are also excited to announce that Thembi's AIDS Diary has won the Overseas Press Club Award for best international radio story of 2006.