Zimbabwe music superstar Oliver Mtukudzi has moved to quash rumours that he is HIV-positive following several false stories that he had died last year.
Arguably the country’s most successful musician, Mtukudzi has in the past revealed that he is diabetic.
His often sickly look has spawned persistent rumours that he has HIV and in December some online blogs even reported that he had died.
But the 60-year-old music maestro told CNN’s African Voices programme at the weekend that although he had many relatives who had succumbed to Aids, he was not HIV-positive himself.
“I am not HIV-positive myself but I have dealt with HIV and Aids programmes, a lot of them,” he said.
He disclosed that his brother Robert and four of his band members had died of Aids in quick succession in the 1980s.
“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,” Mtukudzi said. “I am glad the stigma in Zimbabwe has fallen away, not completely though.
“People now talk about it, they don’t hide it.”
Zimbabwe has 1.2 million people living with HIV but the prevalence rate has been falling significantly in the past few years.
Mtukudzi has also worked with the World Health Organisation (WHO) since the 1980s to spread HIV/Aids awareness.
“I am one of the very first artists in Zimbabwe to be approached about HIV by the World Health Organisation, that was 1987,” he told CNN. “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 Swaziland 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.”
The musician went on to pen several hits that address HIV and Aids-related issues.
Last year he was appointed UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador to raise HIV and Aids awareness in Eastern and Southern Africa.
In 2009, Mtukudzi’s manager Sam Mataure said the persistent death rumours were affecting the musician’s family.
“These rumours are sadly not new but their effect remains the same,” he said then. “No-one wants to hear of themselves as dead.
“Those peddling these false rumours should really consider their effect on Mtukudzi’s family, his friends and his fans.
“You have so much opinion about Tuku out there you would think Zimbabwe is full of medical doctors.”