“SA in denial over HIV/AIDS deaths”

CAPE TOWN – The Lancet, a leading international scientific journal, has lambasted the South African government for being defensive and urged it to ‘€œshow 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: ‘€œTo 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 ‘€œpainfully slow’€ progress in providing antiretroviral treatment to all people.

‘€œWhen Thabo Mbeki opens the 2005 parliamentary session this week, he introduces it under the motto ‘€œParliament: 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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