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Commentary & Opinion
Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report Summarizes Reaction to Mandela's Announcement That Son Died of AIDS-Related Illness

January 10, 2005

Former South African President Nelson Mandela's "grief-laden disclosure" that his eldest son had died of AIDS-related complications last week has "won widespread praise" in a country where the HIV/AIDS pandemic is "still shrouded in silence," the AP/Chicago Sun-Times reports (Zavis, AP/Chicago Sun-Times, 1/9). Mandela on Thursday announced that his son Makgatho Mandela, who was 54, had died that day in a Johannesburg hospital from AIDS-related pneumonia -- a revelation that ended weeks of speculation that Makgatho had AIDS. Mandela last week at a news conference said, "I announce that my son has died of AIDS," adding, "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 say somebody has died because of HIV/AIDS, and people will stop regarding it as something extraordinary" (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/7).

HIV/AIDS advocates, politicians and business leaders have since "praised Mandela's stand," saying that his announcement might "help fight the stigma that prevents many of the estimated 1,500 South Africans infected every day from seeking help before it's too late," according to the AP/Sun-Times. In a statement released on Friday, UNAIDS said that Mandela's disclosure "underscored that the pandemic knows no boundaries at its epicenter in sub-Saharan Africa," the AP/Sun-Times reports. "Increasingly all people in this region of the world are being affected by the pandemic," the statement said. The Global Business Coalition on HIV/AIDS also said that "it hoped the move would encourage more governments and businesses to take action against the disease," according to the AP/Sun-Times. Although the ruling African National Congress "extended its sympathy" to Mandela's family, the party "made no mention" of the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the AP/Sun-Times reports. ANC spokesperson Smuts Ngonyama said that while the party "hoped" that Mandela's announcement would "lend impetus to the government's existing [HIV/AIDS] programs," it also "hoped it would not be used for political point-scoring," according to the AP/Sun-Times. Zackie Achmat, head of the South African HIV/AIDS advocacy group Treatment Action Campaign, said, "If the ANC used its moral stature in our communities, it could change perceptions fundamentally around the disease to affect both prevention and treatment," adding, "But it misses every opportunity" (AP/Chicago Sun-Times, 1/9). Several newspapers also have published editorials and opinion pieces in reaction to Mandela's announcement. Summaries of the pieces appear below.


Opinion Pieces

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