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Mandela's son dies of AIDS at 54

Makgatho Mandela pictured in an undated handout photograph.
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Former South African President Nelson Mandela announces his only surviving son has succumbed to AIDS.
South Africa
Nelson Mandela

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa (CNN) -- Former South African leader Nelson Mandela has announced that his only surviving son had died of AIDS.

Makgatho Mandela, 54, died in a Johannesburg hospital Thursday of what doctors said was septic shock and pneumonia related to his HIV-positive status.

"I announce that my son has died of AIDS," the 86-year-old Nobel Peace laureate told a news conference.

"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 to say somebody has died because of HIV/AIDS. And people will stop regarding it as something extraordinary."

Medical experts estimate that 5 million South Africans have AIDS, and for many in the country discussing the disease is a taboo.

Mandela has been active in the fight against AIDS for the last three years. A family representative said he had been aware of his son's status for about a year but had not disclosed it because of Makgatho Mandela's desire to keep his condition private.

Mandela's son was admitted to the hospital in November for an emergency operation to remove his gallbladder.

Since that time Mandela had canceled almost all appointments, including his annual Christmas celebration for children at his home at Qunu, to be by his son's bedside.

Makgatho Mandela was the only surviving son of Mandela's first wife, Evelyn.

Mandela's other son, Madiba Thembekile, was killed in a car crash in 1969.

CNN Johannesburg Bureau Chief Charlayne Hunter-Gault contributed to this report

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