Google honours child activist Nkosi Johnson 19 years after his death

Nkosi Johnson died at the age of 12 from Aids in 2001 (image: Alan Murdoch)

The world is celebrating the life of Nkosi Johnson, a South African activist who was only 12 years old when he died.

When he passed away in 2001, he was the longest-surviving child born with HIV.

On Tuesday, which would have been Nkosi's 31st birthday, Google paid tribute to him by having him as their homepage doodle created by Kevin Laughlin.

Born Xolani Nkosi to an HIV positive mother, he was adopted by Johannesburg public relations officer Gail Johnson when his mum, who was also HIV positive, became too ill to look after him.

In 1997, Nkosi was thrust into the limelight at eight years old,when a local primary school near where he lived refused to take him as a pupil because he had HIV.

Google honoured him on his birthday. He would have been 31

The decision caused a political uproar and quickly gained attention, leading to South Africa’s constitution being amended to put in place anti-discrimination policies, banning schools from turning down children based on their health.

After the law changed, the school allowed Nkosi in and he started to campaign for other children with Aids with his adoptive mother.

Gail also helped him set up Nkosi's Haven, a non-profit organisation helping to support mothers and children whose lives have been impacted by HIV and Aids.

As a result of his campaigning Nkosi became a key-note speaker at high-profile events, including the International Aids conference in 2000 when he was just 11.

In his speech Nkosi said: “Care for us and accept us – we are all human beings. We are normal. We have hands. We have feet. We can walk, we can talk, we have needs just like everyone else – don’t be afraid of us – we are all the same!”

Nkosi died one-year later. Four years after that, the International Children’s Peace Prize was created in honour of his efforts to raise awareness of Aids.

The award, known as “Nkosi”, is given to someone who has promoted children’s rights.

Since Nkosi's death there have been positive changes in trying to create a more accepting South Africa.