“I announce that my son has died of AIDS,” said Nobel Prize winner, Nelson Mandela in a news conference to several news organizations including CNN.com, following his son, Makgatho Mandela’s death.
Makgatho died in Johannesburg, South Africa on January 6. He was 54 years-old. Mandela made this announcement in order to continue the trend started by opposition leader Mangosuthu Buthelezi to claim how HIV/AIDS has affected their families. There is a stigma attached to HIV/AIDS, especially in rural areas.
It is reported that 600 people die daily in South Africa from AIDS, and that 25 million people are infected on the entire continent. Mandela coming forward helps combat the shame that comes with recognition of AIDS.
“Makgatho’s death is a tragic reminder, at the start of 2005, of the urgent challenges our country faces in HIV prevention and treatment in the interest of saving lives,” said the South African AIDS lobby group Treatment Action Campaign to PLUS News, an HIV/AIDS news service for Africa.
The sentiments are echoed in Dillard sophomore, Sequoria Shelton, “With the misconceptions in sub-Saharan African, which involve people infected with the disease raping virgins in hopes that that will rid them of the disease, I think that a figure like Mandela coming forward to tell of his family struggle with the disease could do a lot.”
“The recognition could speak volumes to the people and set some type of precedent or tone towards a dialogue about these misconceptions.”
As HIV/AIDS continues to ravage the African community it also continues to leave its mark on the African-American community. According to Avert.com, an international AIDS charity, in 2003 alone Blacks accounted for 21, 304 new AIDS cases in America. Of the 53, 219 females living with the disease at the end of 2003, 34, 025 of the females contracted the disease through heterosexual contact. A little over twenty thousand of the 116, 598 black males AIDS cases were contracted heterosexually.
Misconceptions and half-truths are quite apparent in this fight with HIV/AIDS, even in the highest of offices. This was made evident in the most recent Vice Presidential debate, when Vice President Dick Cheney was shocked when the moderator stated that the fast growing group in the contraction of HIV/AIDS is black females.
“It is clear that the stigma of HIV/AIDS is apparent everywhere, even in America where many people celebrate National AIDS Day and we have national exhibits of the AIDS quilt,” said senior, TcKoy Jones. “Until people come to terms with HIV/AIDS and all that does and all that it means it will continue to devastate our world.”