The New Face of AIDS

On Nov. 27, a taboo was broken when four death notices appeared in the government-managed Notícias of Maputo announcing that businessman Boaventura Moises Machel was a “victim of AIDS.” For the first time, reported Maputo’s Mozambique News Agency (Nov. 28), the death of a well-known Mozambican from AIDS had been announced by the victim’s family.

This family is the country’s most prominent. Machel was the brother of Mozambique’s first president, the late Samora Machel. Boaventura Machel’s sister-in-law Graça Machel, the widow of President Machel, is married to South Africa’s former president, Nelson Mandela.

Lourenço Jossias reported in Maputo’s independent daily newsletter Mediafax (Nov. 29) that the announcement “provoked indignation and an impassioned debate in the city.” Many have questioned the legitimacy of the family’s decision, Jossias said, citing the right to privacy that every citizen retains, even after death.

Dakar’s Panafrican News Agency (PANA) reported on Nov. 28 that in July, Mozambique’s Prime Minister Pascoal Mocumbi, a physician, had criticized the shroud of secrecy surrounding AIDS.

He warned that it contributes to a national state of denial about an epidemic that posed “a terrible challenge” to Mozambique, where close to 15 percent of the population is infected with the HIV virus.

“We need to find an image, a Mozambican face, for AIDS,” said Mocumbi. In Boaventura Machel, noted PANA, AIDS now has that “Mozambican face.”