Thembi: An AIDS Diary


About the Audio Documentary

Thembi was 19 when Producer Joe Richman first met her in 2004 in South Africa. From 2004 to 2005, she recorded her daily life, altogether capturing over 55 hours of content. Joe Richman worked with her to edit this down to 22 minutes. This piece was broadcast on National Public Radio in 2005, and was soon translated into 12 languages and played for over 5 million listeners around the world. Bill Clinton invited Thembi to join him for a global AIDS Summit. Thembi served as ambassador to India and Germany, and traveled many times across South Africa educating communities about AIDS before she passed away in 2009.

About the Producer

My wife and I had moved to South Africa to work on a documentary about Mandela and the history of apartheid. I had also been interviewing dozens of teenagers living with HIV/AIDS in Khayelitsha – a sprawling township outside of Cape Town. We wanted to find a fresh voice that could make real the numbing statistics and overwhelming media coverage surrounding HIV/AIDS.

Until I met ThembI, I wasn’t sure that it would be possible to make a radio diary about such an enormous topic. But her charisma, her off-beat take on the disease, and her honesty immediately struck me. It was then that I realized the story would not be about HIV/AIDS, it would be about Thembi.

Thembi’s story has transcended the air waves and has taken a life of its own, locally and globally. I think it is because she makes the AIDS pandemic very real and human. She did for me and I think she will do the same for you. – Joe Richman, executive producer, Radio Diaries.

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