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Breaking Taboo, Mandela Says Son Died of AIDS
Jan 1 2005
John Chiahemen
Today in Johannesburg, former South African President Nelson Mandela told a press conference that his only surviving son had died of AIDS. Makgatho Mandela, 54, died today at a Johannesburg clinic where he had been receiving treatment for more than a month.
"I announce that my son has died of AIDS," said Mandela, defying the taboo that keeps many Africans from discussing the epidemic.
Family members, including all three of Makgatho's sons, surrounded the frail-looking, 86-year-old Nobel Peace laureate as he made the announcement.
"Let us give publicity to HIV/AIDS and not hide it, because the only way to make it appear like a normal illness like TB, like cancer, is always to come out and to say somebody has died of HIV/AIDS. And people will stop regarding it as something extraordinary," Mandela said.
Activists say AIDS kills more than 600 South Africans every day. Even so, AIDS deaths there are typically blamed on a "long illness," pneumonia or other secondary causes. Few African public figures have spoken publicly about AIDS' effect on them or their families. One exception was Mangosuthu Buthelezi of the opposition Inkatha Freedom Party, who announced last year that AIDS-related illnesses had claimed two of his children.
Despite retiring from public life last year, Mandela has maintained a busy schedule promoting various causes, chiefly AIDS awareness. In the past month, however, he cancelled several holiday engagements to be with his son. By profession, Makgatho was a lawyer with a background in insurance. Makgatho's wife Zondi died of pneumonia in 2003.
More than 25 million Africans, including 5 million people in South Africa, have HIV/AIDS.

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