HAPPY BIRTHDAY March 21
Zackie Achmat (b. 1962)
AIDS ACTIVIST in South Africa
South African activist Zackie Achmat has been a pivotal figure in his country's response to AIDS. His refusal, from 1999 to 2003, to avail himself of anti-retroviral drugs until they became affordable for the poor brought him recognition from health and human rights advocates worldwide.
Born Abdurrazack Achmat in Johannesburg, on March 21, 1962, "Zackie" was raised in a conservative Muslim household by his mother and aunt in Salt River, an area of Cape Town. In a 1995 autobiographical essay, provocatively entitled "My Childhood as an Adult Molester," he describes the conditions of life for South Africa's "coloureds" during the apartheid era, when he suffered discrimination and poverty. Although of Malaysian extraction, he identified with the country's black population, who were subject to even worse treatment. The essay also offers a rare portrait of gay male life in the colored community.