Bold step:

Among the biggest obstacles to combating the global AIDS epidemic is the culture of silence and shame that continues to surround the disease, especially in hard-hit countries like South Africa. Thursday’s announcement by Nelson Mandela that his 54-year-old son, Makgatho, had died of AIDS was an important step toward ending a taboo that keeps many people across Africa from talking openly about the disease’s impact on them and their families, thereby hampering treatment and prevention efforts. Those efforts must include comprehensive sex education and access to family planning.

As it is, a majority of young women in some nations have no idea of how to protect themselves from HIV, and the US overemphasis on abstinence-only programmes does little to ameliorate that situation. There is a need to enhance women’s rights under the law and end the traditions of sexual coercion and violence that are largely responsible for soaring infection rates. This is not a new issue for Mandela. Since leaving South Africa’s presidency, he has emerged as one of the world’s most prominent voices for greater action to fight the scourge of HIV and AIDS and to make life-prolonging antiretroviral drugs available even to those who cannot afford to pay. His decision to reveal the tragic toll of the disease on his family should significantly help the cause. — The New York Times