Independent On-Line, 02 December 2002, 'It's time to talk sex to children' - Madiba

Former president Nelson Mandela has exhorted traditional leaders to get mothers and fathers in their communities talking to their children about sex.

Addressing about 300 traditional leaders from across the country on World Aids Day in Qunu in the Eastern Cape on Sunday Mandela said the era of parents refusing to discuss sex with their children was past.

Parents should explain to their children why they should delay as long as possible before having sex. And they should explain that when they decided it was time for sex, they should have one partner and use a condom.

"Don't be shy," he urged. "My grandson here (Andile) is only nine years old. But they are already being taught at school about HIV and Aids, and they come home and talk to me about it."

Mandela said traditional leaders had a crucial role to play in empowering their people with information about HIV and Aids.

"It is not enough for you to listen to us talking . . . the question is: What are you doing on the ground to help your people, in your villages, in the country?" Mandela demanded.

The gathering was hosted by the Nelson Mandela Foundation, which has been taking its Traditional Leaders HIV and Aids Programme to all corners of the country over the past few months.

In the audience were representatives of provincial Traditional Leaders' HIV and Aids Task Teams set up by the department of health.

Mandela said the starting point in tackling the pandemic was the realisation that it had already killed more people than had died in recent wars and natural disasters together.

"It is a war against humanity," he said, which could not be tackled by any government on its own. "It is of no use criticising the government. As I have said before, I support the government insofar as it is conducting scientific research into certain medicines."

South Africans should stop apportioning blame and get down to tackling the problem themselves.

This article was originally published on page 2 of The Mercury on 01 December 2002