Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report Summarizes Reaction to Mandela’s Announcement That Son Died of AIDS
Former South African President Nelson Mandela last week announced that his son Makgatho Mandela, who was 54, had died from AIDS-related pneumonia -- a revelation that ended weeks of speculation that Makgatho had AIDS. Mandela 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, 1/12). Several newspapers have published opinion pieces and editorials in reaction to Mandela's announcement, some of which are summarized below.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution: Mandela, who "led his nation in triumph over the historic evils of racial apartheid," has been "summoned" again to "assume the mantle of leadership in another battle against the forces of ignorance and fear" in the fight against HIV/AIDS because of the "intimate tragedy" of Makgatho's death, a Journal-Constitution editorial says. Mandela's demonstration of "the essence of leadership despite great personal sacrifice" gives "hope that those South Africans and others around the world whose prejudice and inaction have contributed to the spreading epidemic will follow his courageous example," the editorial concludes (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 1/14).
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: Mandela's announcement was an effort to "strike a blow against the insidious killer" -- HIV/AIDS, a Post-Gazette editorial says. In many areas of Africa, HIV/AIDS "remains shrouded in secrecy," but the pandemic has not received the attention it deserves, whether because of "apathy," "stigma" or "ignorance," the Post-Gazette says. However, "[i]f there is to be any hope of progress on AIDS, the disease needs to be seen worldwide as one that affects everyone -- not just the poor and uneducated and not just homosexuals," the editorial says, concluding that Mandela's "openness in the face of personal tragedy should be an inspiration" to people in Africa and worldwide (Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 1/13).
- Leon Marshall, Detroit Free Press: "Typical of the man," Mandela's disclosure that Makgatho died of AIDS-related causes was "infused with social and political significance to the extent that it seemed to supersede the personal pain he suffered," Marshall, a journalist living in Johannesburg, South Africa, writes in a Free Press opinion piece. "[I]t could not have been easy" to forgo "the privacy that a family surely has a right to expect in times of grief," Marshall writes, concluding that Mandela's announcement represents a "growing trend for public figures to raise the issue more openly, and in some cases personally, as the reality [of HIV/AIDS] is bearing down" on South Africa (Marshall, Detroit Free Press, 1/13).