Fela Anikulapo-Kuti: His death marked a turning point in HIV/AIDS awareness

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The Black President with his queens

Nigerians started taking HIV/AIDS seriously when Fela died.

When on August 3, 1997, Olikoye Ransome-Kuti announced to the Nigerians that his enigmatic brother Fela Anikulapo-Kuti had passed away.

The bigger blow came when he revealed that Fela Kuti had died from complications of HIV/AIDS. This was a shock to Nigerians. Fela had a larger than life persona and him succumbing to HIV/AIDS was ironic and also shocking.

In his lifetime Fela never took HIV/AIDS seriously. He denied its existence at first then later said it was a white man's disease and couldn't affect the black man.


The first case of AIDS in Nigeria was in 1985. when Fela was in jail. The second case was reported in 1986. The latter case was that of a 13-year-old prostitute. According to the Saudi Journal of Biological Sciences, "The news of this first AIDS case sent panic, doubt and disbelief to the whole nation as AIDS was perceived as the disease of American homosexuals. Some people saw the story about AIDS as a ploy by the Americans to discourage sex and many acronyms, one of which was ‘American Idea for Discouraging Sex’ emerged at the time.

Sometime in the early 90s, Gold Circle Condom aired the famous "Na who this get raincoat?" advert on TV. It was probably the first TV commercial for safe sex. It starred veteran Nigerian actors Binta Ayo Mogaji and Tunji Bamishigbin. The advert was remembered for its humour than its message.


The nation's attitude towards safe sex, HIV and AIDS wasn't serious until Fela's death. When it was revealed he had died of complications of AIDS, Nigerians took it seriously.

A newspaper ran an article that the sales of condoms had increased dramatically after the death of Fela. That news story has forever been lost in the sands of time. I remember that article because I read it during the days after Fela's death.

Nigerians started taking HIV/AIDS seriously after the death of Fela. It was a jolt to the system that made Nigerians stand up. In the years after Golden Circle increased its promotion of safe sex.

During the World Cup in France in 1998, Super Eagles star player Sunday Oliseh appeared in a Gold Circle advert. To drive home the message of safe sex further, Femi Kuti also appeared in a Gold Circle campaign during this period.


Fela's death served as a turning point for the country's attitude towards HIV/AIDS.

The thinking shortly after his death was if Fela could get, then who were you not to get it?

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