In 2008 we were fortunate to have Zambian AIDS activist Winstone Zulu as a speaker for the Give a Day campaign. Winstone was one of the first Africans to live publicly with HIV, and he spoke out courageously and persistently to get the global community to take action on HIV/AIDS and TB. In November of 2008 it was my privilege to accompany Winstone as he visited many of the Toronto law firms that champion the Give a Day campaign. In his quiet but very strong voice, Winstone patiently educated all of us and stressed how crucial it is for us to lend both our voices, and our resources, to ending the pandemic. After living with HIV for 20 years, Winstone passed away last week from AIDS.
This past weekend, journalist Stephanie Nolen wrote a tribute to Winstone Zulu in the Globe and Mail that captures his spirit beautifully. In it she tells the story of a gathering that happened in the offices of the Stephen Lewis Foundation in 2008, which I had the great good fortune to be present for. When he arrived that afternoon, Winstone had a large brown envelope in his hands. When Stephen Lewis came to greet Winstone, I watched as Winstone handed him the envelope, which held two photographs. One photograph had been taken six months earlier when he had been through a period of AIDS-related infections and looked thin and ill. The second had been taken recently, after living in Canada for six months and receiving medical care here. He looked healthy, strong and happy, ready to take on the world again. And if you spent any time with Winstone, you knew that he had the energy and drive to do just that.
Since I heard the news of Winstone’s death I haven’t been able to get thoughts of those photos out of my mind. It was one of the most tangible illustrations I’ve ever seen of the inequities between health care that is available in Canada, and what is available to those who need it in Africa. It is also an illustration of the difference good health can make to a family, allowing parents to raise their children, go to work to support their families and contribute to their communities. I won’t ever forget those photographs, just as I won’t forget Winstone.