The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Superstar Tuku Discloses HIV Status

MUSIC superstar Oliver Mtukudzi has dismissed rumours suggesting that he is HIV positive.

Speaking in an interview aired by CNN on its African Voices programme, Tuku dismissed the reports as mere speculation.

"I am not HIV positive myself, but I have dealt with a lot of programmes on HIV and Aids.

"I have had a close encounter with Aids when I lost four of my band members, including a brother, to the pandemic in a space of two months."

Tuku, as Mtukudzi is affectionately known in music circles, made the revelations in reaction to growing speculation that he was HIV positive on account of his gaunt frame.

"My brother Robert died of Aids, 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, though not completely.

"Stigma is just an attitude. And the fact that people now talk about HIV and Aids freely shows that it has fallen away. People no longer hide it."

Tuku said he was diabetic; hence his often sickly look, adding that rumour-mongers were basing their speculation on that condition.

The 60-year-old music guru said he was the first Zimbabwean musician to be approached by the World Health Organisation in the 1980s to start Aids awareness programmes through song and dance.

"I am one of the very first artistes in Zimbabwe to be approached about HIV by WHO in the year 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 saw me going to Switzerland where I actually saw people infected and affected, so I had a better understanding of the disease than my fellow artistes because they had not seen it and I had seen that," he told Nkepile Mabuse of CNN's African Voices.

These experiences, Tuku said, had pushed him to embrace HIV as a key theme in his decades-long musical career hoping to fight stigma and raise awareness through his powerful lyrics.

Tuku's songs that address HIV and Aids-related issues include "Tapera", "Todii" and "Stay with one Woman" among others.

Last year, Mtukudzi won critical acclaim when he was appointed Unicef Goodwill Ambassador to raise Aids awareness in eastern and southern Africa.

Unicef regional director Elhadj As Sy said Tuku had 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 on the occasion of the latter's Unicef ambassadorial appointment.

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