South Africa 14.3.2016 02:56 pm

Mbeki puzzles over AIDS deaths despite ARVs

Former president Thabo Mbeki. File Picture: Refilwe Modise

Former president Thabo Mbeki. File Picture: Refilwe Modise

Mbeki also questioned statistics that indicate black Africans were the worst affected by HIV.

In his second week tackling the issue of HIV, former president Thabo Mbeki wrestles with statistics of HIV mortality rates in South Africa and their apparent increase from 2008 since the increased rollout of anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs).

In the latest of his weekly letters, Mbeki cited the statistics from Statistics South Africa (Statssa), which indicate the number of people who died from ‘Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease’ increased from 15 097 in 2008 to 23 203 in 2013 – a 54% increase over five years.

He further cited a ranking that Statssa that said HIV rose from being the ninth leading leading cause of death in the country in 2008 to third in 2013.

“These increases are puzzling given the fact that it is precisely during the period since 2008 that, avowedly, the South African government engaged in a large-scale distribution of anti-retroviral drugs,” Mbeki wrote.

Mbeki challenged Statssa’s classification of HIV as disease and of Aids as a syndrome.

He questioned the default causal link between what Satssa describes as ‘infectious and parasitic diseases’ with HIV disease in death records, saying: “If this is the case, serious questions would arise as to why infectious and parasitic diseases etc, all of which are well known to medicine, including their causes and treatment, should now be categorised as ‘HIV disease’.”

In another part of the letter, the former president also questions why black and coloured people were the demographic among whom Aids as a cause of death was ranked higher than white and Indian people.

“Our third observation relates to the finding in the 2013 report which states that it is only among the ‘black Africans’ that ‘HIV disease’ is the second leading cause of death!” he said.

“What accounts for this?

“Why are black Africans unique among all sections of the South African population such that only they die from ‘HIV disease’ as the second leading cause of death, accounting for as much as 6.2% of all black African deaths?”

“This raises the important question about what is different in the lifestyles and material conditions of the black Africans and the coloureds such that only they suffer from ‘HIV disease’ and tuberculosis!” the Mbeki letter argued.

AfricaCheck has refuted Mbeki’s assertion that HIV was only the ninth leading cause of death in 2006, saying that statistics did not take into account what it regarded as the clear link between HIV and TB, which was the leading cause of death at the time, according to statistics.

“HIV deaths are far higher than those shown in the data presented by Mbeki, with Aids accounting for 46.3% of all deaths in 2006,” the fact-checking website said.

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