AIDS IS SOUTH AFRICA'S BIGGEST KILLER, SAYS REPORT
By Brendan Boyle
Reuters 16 Oct. 2001
Cape Town -- South Africa's Medical Research Council
challenged President Thabo Mbeki's stance on AIDS on Tuesday, saying
the disease accounted for a third of all deaths in the country this
A report by the state-appointed council (MRC) contradicted Mbeki's
statement in a BBC television interview in August that accidents and
violence in South Africa killed more people than AIDS.
Mbeki has also stirred a storm of controversy, which some analysts
cite as a factor in the plunge of the South African rand, by
questioning the existence of AIDS and its link with the human
immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
The MRC report, initially blocked by Mbeki's cabinet, said that
without government intervention or a change in sexual behavior, HIV
and AIDS would account for 66 percent of all deaths by 2010 and that
the toll from the disease would have risen to between five and seven
"These numbers are the best that are available in South Africa,''
Rob Dorrington, director of actuarial research at the University of
Cape Town, told a news conference.
The report, prepared by five respected scientists, estimated 195,000
people would die of AIDS in 2001, more than double the government's
figure of 65,000 to 80,000 deaths from accidents and violence in 2000.
The report has been ready for several months and its main findings
have been leaked to some local newspapers, but the cabinet decided
initially not to release it, saying the findings had to be verified.
Responding to intense pressure and criticism from labor unions,
clergy and health groups, the cabinet reversed its decision last week
and said the MRC could release the report ''with the understanding
that this is but one contribution to the continuing official process.''
The report said South Africa, which has more people with HIV and AIDS
than any other country, faces a dismal decade of escalating deaths in
a society unable to afford proper treatment for the disease.
The report sees average life expectancy falling from 54 years in 2001
to 41 in 2010, when it expects about 780,000 people to die of
HIV/AIDS related causes.
"Preliminary modeling shows that even at this late stage in the
epidemic, effective programs resulting in changed behavior among
adolescents and adults would significantly reduce the prevalence of
the disease,'' the MRC said.
Dorrington said after the briefing however that there was no evidence
in the council's research that sexual behavior was changing.