Former South African President Nelson Mandela has drawn praise from UNAIDS and local AIDS activists after disclosing that the death of his only surviving son on Thursday was AIDS-related.
The former president is one of a few southern African leaders, including former Zambian president Kenneth Kaunda, former South African home affairs minister Mangosuthu Buthelezi and Mandela's wife Graca Machel who have openly acknowledged the impact of HIV/AIDS on their families.
UNAIDS executive director Peter Piot said in a statement: "Mr Mandela's public acknowledgement that his son, Makgatho Mandela, had died from an AIDS-related illness is a demonstration of the practical leadership that Mr Mandela gives to the international efforts to fight stigma and discrimination."
Mandela told reporters that he had made public the cause of his son's death in order to focus more attention on HIV and AIDS.
Offering its condolences to the Mandela family, South African AIDS lobby group Treatment Action Campaign (TAC) said: "We salute [them] for their decision to disclose the cause of death in the national interest of raising awareness of HIV and destigmatising AIDS during a time of great personal pain and loss."
TAC said it hoped Mandela's announcement would encourage more people to be counselled, tested for HIV and, when necessary, treated.
"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," the group added.
TAC has urged the ruling African National Congress to declare 2005 the year of HIV prevention and treatment.
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