South Africa's Nelson Mandela, one of Africa's most committed campaigners in the battle against AIDS, announced that his only surviving son had succumbed to the disease on Thursday. Makgatho Mandela, 54, died in a Johannesburg clinic where he had been receiving treatment for more than a month. His wife, Zondi, died in 2003 from pneumonia. "I announce that my son has died of AIDS," the 86-year-old Nobel Peace laureate told a news conference, urging a redoubled fight against the disease. "Let us give publicity to HIV/AIDS and not hide it, because the only way to make it appear like a normal illness like tuberculosis, like cancer, is always to come out and to say somebody has died because of HIV/AIDS. And people will stop regarding it as something extraordinary," said a frail-looking Mandela, surrounded by his grandchildren and other family members.
Mandela's announcement of his personal AIDS tragedy challenges a widespread taboo that keeps many Africans from discussing an epidemic that now infects more than 25 million people across the continent. In South Africa, which has some 5 million HIV-positive people and one of the highest AIDS caseloads in the world, the disease kills more than 600 people each day, activists say. Despite the mounting death toll, few public figures in South Africa or other African countries have personally come forward to say that AIDS has affected them or their families. Deaths from the disease are usually attributed to a "long illness," pneumonia, or other secondary causes. (Reuters)