CAPE TOWN, South Africa - Health activist Thembi Ngubane, 24, whose radio diaries of her struggle against the AIDS virus won her audiences and admiration around the world, died Tuesday of tuberculosis.
Joe Richman, who produced the diaries and became her friend, said Ms. Ngubane had drug-resistant TB that was diagnosed too late to save her.
She left a 4-year-old daughter, Onwabo. A memorial service was held yesterday in the Cape Town suburb of Khayelitsha, one of the areas worst affected by the AIDS-TB epidemic.
Ms. Ngubane fought a very public battle against HIV.
"Hi, this is Thembi," began the diaries. "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.' "
Ms. Ngubane was 19 when she was given a tape recorder to make an audio diary about living with HIV in a country where nearly one-third of young women are infected. She carried the recorder for more than a year, revealing her first conversation with her mother about AIDS; a visit to the township clinic to get lifesaving drugs; telling her father about her status; playing with her daughter.
NPR aired the tapes in April 2006, on her 21st birthday.
She subsequently went on a five-city tour in the United States, meeting former President Bill Clinton and speaking to students, lawmakers, doctors, and celebrities.
Like many South Africans, Ms. Ngubane suffered from the government's reticence to provide anti-retroviral drugs to people with the AIDS virus.
"My face was becoming like bones, I couldn't walk. Everything that was happening I thought would never happen to me," she commented before finally receiving the lifesaving drugs.
Her diary is on the Web at www.radiodiaries.org