Originally by CNN
The late SUPERSTAR Oliver Mtukudzi moved to permanently quash unrelenting speculation about his HIV status, declaring, “I am not HIV positive” in an interview with CNN in 2013.
Tuku, who was Zimbabwe’s most successful musician, previously battled wild rumours of ill-health and explained that he is diabetic; hence his often-sickly look. But that has not been assuring enough for conjecture-mongers.
And during a weekend appearance on CNN’s African Voices programme, the then 60-year-old guru took the opportunity to declare his status.
“I am not HIV positive myself, but I have dealt with HIV and Aids programmes, a lot of them,” Mtukudzi told interviewer Nkepile Mabuse.
While the prolific singer could be HIV negative, he admitted he has lost loved ones to Aids, including his brother Robert and four band members in quick succession within two months in the 1980s.
The devastating experience pushed Tuku to embrace HIV as a key theme in his decades-long musical career hoping to fight stigma and raise awareness through his powerful lyrics.
“My brother Robert died of Aids√¢‚Ç¨¬¶ so I had all the reason to try and help and give awareness to the people and fight the stigma. I am glad the stigma in Zimbabwe has fallen away, not completely though. People now talk about it, they don’t hide it,” Tuku said.
He also relived working with the World Health Organisation (WHO) in the 1980s to spread HIV/Aids awareness, a few years after the disease had been discovered.
“I am one of the very first artists in Zimbabwe to be approached about HIV by the World Health Organisation (WHO); that was 1987. Nobody knew about the disease in Zimbabwe, and I was lucky to get the material about the disease. I had to learn and come up with a song which made me go to Switzerland where I actually saw people infected and affected, so I had a better understanding of the disease than my fellow artists because they hadn’t seen it and I had seen that,” he said.
His songs that address HIV issues include Tapera, Todii and Stay with one Woman, among several others.
Mtukudzi’s activism won him critical acclaim last year when he was appointed UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador to raise Aids awareness in Eastern and Southern Africa.
Giving him the role, UNICEF regional director Elhadj As Sy said: “You have demonstrated a genuine commitment to communicating strong and clear messages about the importance of child and young people’s rights, including their right to live free from HIV and AIDS.”