CAPE TOWN – The Lancet, a leading international scientific journal, has lambasted the South African government for being defensive and urged it to ‘show backbone and courage to acknowledge and seriously tackle the HIV/AIDS crisis of its people’.
The comments followed an editorial in this week’s Lancet on the findings of a Medical Research Council study that attempts to quantify misclassification of HIV/AIDS deaths concluded for the year 2000-01.
The study found that the number of deaths related to HIV/AIDS was likely to be almost three times as high as that published in Government’s statistical report compiled from death certificates.
The study suggested that 80% of excess deaths in men and 70% in women attributable to HIV were classified as tuberculosis or lower respiratory tract infections.
The Lancet praised former President Nelson Mandela for openly attributing his son Makgato’s death to AIDS, just hours after he had died.
It commented further: ‘To change attitudes, many more such disclosures from respected public figures are needed in a country that has more than five million people who are HIV positive.’
The journal criticized the South African government for its ‘painfully slow’ progress in providing antiretroviral treatment to all people.
‘When Thabo Mbeki opens the 2005 parliamentary session this week, he introduces it under the motto ‘Parliament: The Voice of the People: Realising a Better Life for All’. Without making HIV/AIDS his highest and most urgent priority, this motto will be nothing more than empty words,’ The Lancet added.
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