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Nelson Mandela's son, Makgatho Mandela, died of Aids, the former president told reporters at his residence in Houghton, Johannesburg, on Thursday.
Surrounded by family members, Mandela said there is no purpose in hiding the illness from which Makgatho had been suffering.
Mandela said he had done the same by telling his fellow prisoners when he suffered from tuberculosis.
Mandela said that talking about such diseases is the only way to stop people "regarding it as extraordinary and for which people will go to hell and not to heaven".