Number of AIDS-Related Deaths in South Africa Three Times Official Figures, Report Says
February 3, 2005
The number of people dying of AIDS-related causes in South Africa is at least three times as much as official figures suggest, the country's Medical Research Council said in a report published in the Jan. 28 issue of the journal AIDS, London's Independent reports. MRC estimates that about 112,000 people died of AIDS-related causes from 2000 to 2001, which is almost three times as many as the country's Department of Home Affairs estimated died during the same period. In addition, the report says that during that year about 74% of deaths among children under age five were from AIDS-related illnesses, compared with data cited by the government claiming 25% of deaths among young children are AIDS-related (Selva, Independent, 2/2). Many deaths were recorded as pneumonia or tuberculosis, partly so the family could claim life insurance or funeral policies and also to protect families from the social stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS, according to South Africa's Star. "A large proportion of deaths due to HIV infection are misclassified (on death certificates) as the opportunistic infections that are the immediate cause of death," Debbie Bradshaw, director of MRC's burden of disease unit and co-author of the report, said (Selva, Star, 2/2). A "politically sensitive mortality report" by Statistics South Africa is expected to be released on Friday that will provide details on the causes of death in the country between 1997 and 2003, South Africa's Business Day reports (Business Day, 2/1). However, MRC "warned" that the agency's survey "will again underestimate" the number of AIDS-related deaths in South Africa, according to the Independent (Independent, 2/2).
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