February 18, 2005

57 percent jump in deaths related to AIDS

A recent report has measured a 57-percent jump in reported deaths between 1997 and 2002 has been reported, providing a startling - if indirect - picture of the rocketing toll of the country's Aids epidemic. Releasing figures from the national mortality study, Statistics South Africa said that reported deaths leapt to 499.268 in 2002 from 318.287 in 1997. Its report also showed deaths increasing most rapidly for women and for people aged between 20 and 49 - both regarded as groups most susceptible to the virus, which affects an estimated one in nine of the country's 45-million people. The study "provides indirect evidence that the HIV epidemic in South Africa is raising the mortality levels of prime aged adults", Statistics South Africa head Pali Lehohla said. Officials said exact causes of death remained difficult to ascertain as in many cases Aids-related diseases such as tuberculosis, influenza or pneuomonia were officially recorded as responsible. Officials said exact causes of death remained difficult to ascertain as in many cases Aids-related diseases such as tuberculosis, influenza or pneuomonia were officially recorded as responsible. Statistics South Africa officials said that while South Africa's Aids epidemic was likely an important factor in the rising death rate, part of the increase could also be attributed to a growing overall population, and improved data on deaths.

Before the launch of the report, AIDS activists once were launching a campaign to put more HIV-positive people on the national treatment programme. The AIDS lobby group, Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), will spend the rest of this year campaigning for 200.000 people to be treated with antiretroviral (ARV) drugs in the public sector by the beginning of 2006, and at least 10 percent of them must be children. In 2003, the government had committed itself to providing free antiretroviral (ARV) treatment to 53.000 patients by March 2004, and the target date was moved forward a year, to March 2005. TAC estimates that about 20.000 South Africans living with the virus are currently receiving treatment. Despite the Western Cape and Gauteng provinces having made significant progress by treating more people than South Africa's seven other provinces combined, TAC stressed that the pace of implementation in the other provinces was too slow. "The lack of leadership from the National Department of Health remains the most important factor blocking a speedier rollout," the group said in a statement. (Business Day, Johannesburg)

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