South African theater icon announces he is HIV-positive

By Advocate.com Editors

Originally published on Advocate.com February 25 2003 12:00 AM ET

Gibson Kente, one of South Africa's best-known playwrights, announced Friday that he is HIV-positive, making him one of just a handful of celebrities in the AIDS-ravaged nation to go public about being infected with the virus. Kente, 69, who pioneered theater in South Africa's black townships during apartheid rule, has written such plays as Manana, The Jazz Prophet, How Long, Sikhalo, and Lifa. He said he now plans to write a play about his experience in being diagnosed and living with HIV.

Kente said he went public with his diagnosis to help fight AIDS stigma in the country. "I have HIV--why not make some use of it?" he said. "Things like this are never easy, but when you believe in yourself and you believe you serve a bigger purpose, then what is the use of keeping it to yourself?"

An estimated 4.7 million South Africans are infected with HIV, and about 200,000 people are expected to die of AIDS-related complications this year.