By James Morrison and Staff Reporter

He is already a hero for thousands of South Africans for his fight for the rights of people living with HIV.

Now Zackie Achmat is one of 35 people selected by Time magazine as one of the world's heroes.

The magazine's award nominations list describes Achmat in an article defining a new breed of heroes.

In days gone by, they were associated with bravery, martyrdom and, at the very least, a willingness to sacrifice their own comforts - if not lives - for the greater good.

But, in the new millennium, valour against appalling odds or sacrificing one's life in conflict are out, and good works are in.

Time's eclectic list of 35 individuals who it describes as "extraordinary people" shows that service to the downtrodden is the new route to heroism, plus one other factor: a life story that is ripe for Hollywood.

Familiar names include U2 singer Bono, soccer star David Beckham and author JK Rowling, who is lauded for "quietly corresponding" with terminally ill children. We learn that she signs her missives with 24 kisses, and the words: "JK Rowling (Jo to anybody from Gryffindor)".

Others include Natasa Kandic, a Serbian who has spent a decade documenting reports of ethnic cleansing and mass rape during the break-up of Yugoslavia, and Stefano Dambruoso, the Italian prosecutor renowned for his dogged pursuit of Mafia bosses, who recently turned to rooting out al-Qaeda members.

A more traditional style of hero is represented by Brother Isodoro Macias, a Spanish White Cross Franciscan who runs shelters for African immigrants arriving in Europe. He is joined by Greek wine-maker Yiannis Boutaris, who offers sanctuary to one-time dancing bears.

Jim Ledbetter, senior editor of Time Europe, said the new European Heroes issue was compiled by reporters "based all over Europe... we asked them to identify the individual personalities who were most respected and looked up to in their territories".

Achmat, who is HIV-positive and heads the Treatment Action Campaign, has refused to take the anti-retroviral drugs he desperately needs until they are freely available to people who cannot afford them.

His inclusion on the list is the latest of a string of honours awarded to the TAC, which has garnered awards from the Nelson Mandela Foundation and MTV, the music channel.