New York Times (10.17.01) - Wednesday, October 17, 2001
According to a long-awaited report by the Medical Research
Council (MRC) in Johannesburg -the South African equivalent to
the US National Institutes of Health -AIDS is the leading
cause of death in South Africa. Young adults are especially
hard hit, with the overall death rate of women in their 20's
now higher than that of women in their 60's, the MRC reported
today. By tracking mortality data as far back as 1985, the
report provides a portrait of an epidemic that is transforming
the ordinary patterns of life and death. The report -the first
comprehensive examination of mortality statistics from the
AIDS era -found that 40 percent of adult deaths last year were
caused by AIDS- related illnesses.
Contradicting recent statements by President Thabo Mbeki, who
has insisted that violence and other diseases are bigger
killers than AIDS, the report said researchers could find no
other explanation for the surge in mortality: "We looked at
alternative explanations for these patterns and found none of
Mbeki's officials have repeatedly delayed the report's release
and criticized its validity. It is unlikely that the
government will take aggressive action based on the findings.
Instead, officials at South Africa's statistics agency are
questioning the MRC's methodology, citing such problems as
incomplete data in rural areas.
Despite government resistance to the report, the MRC
scientists have refused to back away from their findings.
"There is no precedent for this in our history," said Dr.
Malegaparu Makgoba, MRC president. "You have a situation where
the younger females who are supposed to be healthy and
productive are dying in greater numbers than their mothers."