Nelson mandela once said there can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way it treats its children. When he moved into his final act, he turned his attention to them. Especially the... See More
Nelson mandela once said there can be no keener revelation of a society's soul than the way it treats its children. When he moved into his final act, he turned his attention to them. Especially the children and orphans with hiv. Byron pitts tonight on mandela's final push to mobilize the next generation. Reporter: January 2005 nelson mandela was 86. Retired from public office for six years he called a news conference at his home in johannesburg to make a stunning announcement. My son has died of aids. Reporter: Makgatho mandela was 54. This public admission by this proud and now private man. Is considered the pivotal moment in how the nation of south africa and much of the continent would view the aids epidemic moving forward. For him to stand up and admit that that was something within his family was very important. It made other people feel that the norm liesed hiv. If it can happen to his family -- it can happen to anybody. Reporter: An estimated 5 million were infected with hiv at the time and more than 2 million had died. Aids was a shameful and taboo topic that prevented treating the disease. We must not hide the cause of death of our respected family because that is the only way in which we can make people understand that even hiv is an ordinary illness. Reporter: The fight against aids was his last campaign. As president he remained mostly silent on the matter. But in the midst of his private loss he found his public voice. I cannot rest until the global response is sufficient to turn the tide of the epidemic. Reporter: And as usual for mandela, there were no halfway measures as he lent the power and prestige of his face and name to the cause appearing at huge international events, like this anti-aids concert. Creating the "46664 fund," his old prison number, now used to raise awareness and money in the fight against aids. I would love to enjoy the peace and quiet of retirement but I know that, like many of you, I cannot rest easily while our beloved continent is ravaged by a deadly epidemic. His presence was absolutely incredible. When he spoke, the world listened. Reporter: And nowhere was that impact greater than among the most vulnerable of south africa's population young children stigmatized by society. Children like 13-year old gugulethu ntombela one of the more than 300 hundred thousand south african kids living with the hiv virus. Gugu, as she's called, has been living with hiv since birth, but but in her despair, a beacon of hope was nelson mandela's fight for the protection of kids and those living with hiv and aids. The fight against aids is one of the greatest challenges the world faces. Reporter: Inspired by mandela's example, this brave teenager picked up the pieces of her life and moved on at her johannesburg high school, she's a natural leader active in sports and a star student. Always singing, she's also open about her hiv status despite the many people too scared or embarrassed to admit they have the virus. I'm okay. Yeah, I'm okay. And I want to say that I'm strong, brave and intelligent. Reporter: It's a confidence born from the spirit of her country's patriarch, who himself endured so much. When the history of our time is written, will we be remembered as the generation that turned our backs in the moment of a global crisis, or will it be recorded that we did the right thing?
This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.