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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update

Study Says AIDS Is Now Chief Cause of Death in South Africa


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 them plausible." 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."


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Information in this article was accurate in October 17, 2001. The state of the art may have changed since the publication date. This material is designed to support, not replace, the relationship that exists between you and your doctor. Always discuss treatment options with a doctor who specializes in treating HIV.