Winstone Zulu (Photo by Liz Marshall)

Winstone Zulu, 1964-2011

We are tremendously saddened to report the passing of Winstone Zulu, Zambia’s most prominent AIDS and tuberculosis (TB) activist and a longtime friend and partner of the Foundation. A journalist, poet and courageous advocate, Winstone was among the first people in Zambia to openly declare his HIV status. Stephen Lewis wrote the following tribute to his dear friend, which was read at a memorial service in Zambia on Friday:

The loss of Winstone Zulu is indescribably painful. He was such a wonderful friend to all of us.

I was in Lusaka in early August, and spent some quiet, precious time with Winstone. He was lying in
bed at Hope House, sipping soup, terribly frail, knowing what was coming, but consumed as ever with
the struggle against the AIDS pandemic and the quest for social justice to which he had devoted his
entire life.

My mind went back to our first meeting in 2002 when I was the UN Envoy, and Winstone headed the
Association of People Living with AIDS. I remember thinking at the time: where did this incredibly
articulate and intense man come from? How did he find the strength to be so critical of government; to
be so unflinching in his demands for treatment and care for everyone who needed it? Where did he find
the emotional and physical reserves to be so principled and uncompromising?

I was, quite simply, stunned in his presence. And I became an instant fan. And more than that, over
time a friendship grew.

Winstone never, but never tired of fighting the good fight. He was the ultimate activist. Whether he
was on the platform at the International AIDS Conference in Bangkok, acknowledged by Nelson
Mandela; whether he was leading the debate on AIDS and Disabilities at the AIDS conference in
Mexico City; whether he was auditing classes at Ryerson University in Toronto, Canada, and suddenly
realizing what an accomplished writer he was, and deciding to use that skill to further the cause of
HIV-prevention; whether he was in some remote corner of the United States or Japan or Germany or
the United Kingdom educating people about infectious diseases and the urgent need for resources,
whether he was forever hammering home the issues … AIDS and Tuberculosis, drug stock-outs,
outrageous drug prices, not enough money for the Global Fund, the rights of HIV-positive pregnant
women --- indeed the desperate need for gender equality, the primacy of treatment, home-based care,
the plight of orphans and grandmothers, the training of youth advocates --- he never tired of
pricking the egos of the powerful and championing the rights of the poor and the infected.
And he did it all with that gentle, calm but commanding voice and presence. It was so much a
reflection of his community and the people around him and of course his lovely family. Winstone was
a son of Kabwe; he devoted much of his time and life to working within his own community. He talked
of Kabwe incessantly, of what he wanted to accomplish, of what he wanted to protect, of what he
wanted to heal.

They don’t make them like Winstone anymore. He was unique … gifted, dedicated, generous, blessed
with the soul of human decency.

As I sat on the bed, holding Winstone’s hand, talking as always about the issues --- he never had time
for small talk: it was always about the issues --- I couldn’t help but think about his legacy.

As you can see from the outpouring around the world, he was a mentor and inspiration to thousands.
He would want all of us never to cease in our collective determination to rid the world of the virus. He
fought so hard and so long to stay alive. What a gentle, beautiful courageous man. I loved him. You
loved him. His country loved him. The best way to honour his legacy is to take his unwavering spirit
and in his name defeat the pandemic of AIDS.
                                                                      - Stephen Lewis


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