HIV and TB activist Winstone Zulu dead

Keith Alcorn
Published: 12 October 2011

The prominent HIV and TB activist Winstone Zulu has died at the age of 47 in hospital in Lusaka.

Mr Zulu was diagnosed with HIV in 1990 and was the first person in Zambia to make a public statement about his HIV status.

He began to take antiretroviral treatment in 1996 and contracted tuberculosis in 1997. After effective treatment for TB he became one of the first HIV activists to champion the need to address TB. One of 13 children, Winstone Zulu lost four brothers and two sisters-in-law to TB between 1990 and 2003.

“Not only was Winstone Zulu a hero in the fight against AIDS, but he was also a pioneer in bringing AIDS activism to the hitherto barren and civil society free zone of tuberculosis prevention, treatment, and care,” said Mark Harrington, executive director of Treatment Action Group.

“Winstone was lovely, a courageous, insightful, gentle and eloquent activist and a real pioneer of the HIV and TB access movements for Africans in Africa. He was also that rare thing, a heterosexual man who was honest, wise and funny about male sexuality. He didn't just defy three epidemic diseases (he had polio as well as HIV and TB), he also survived AIDS denialism,” said Gus Cairns of NAM.

Winstone Zulu stopped HIV medication in 2000 after encountering AIDS denialist views that HIV did not cause AIDS.

He resumed treatment in 2002 after a huge decline in his CD4 cell count left him once again seriously ill.

He continued to play a prominent role in AIDS and TB activism and was praised by Nelson Mandela as a pioneer of TB activism at the 2004 World AIDS Conference. In 2006 he was awarded the Stop TB Partnership Kochon prize for his contribution to TB control.

“Winstone Zulu worked tirelessly to change the world, at no small cost to his own health and wellbeing,” said Mark Harrington. “His legacy is a stronger link between HIV and TB activists, but his inimitable calm and passionate voice of reason will be deeply missed.

Winstone Zulu is survived by his wife Vivian and their four children.