'Grave concern' over Aids deaths

2009-11-11 14:18

Johannesburg - The SA Medical Association is "gravely concerned" about HIV/Aids statistics which show a huge Aids-related leap in South Africa's death rate.

"We have always been concerned on whether it is correct to wait with treatment until a person's CD4 count has dropped to 200 [cells per microlitre]. We believe it might contribute to a higher mortality rate by delaying treatment," Sama's chairperson Norman Mabasa said on Wednesday.

The CD4 count is used to measure the strength of a person's immune system.

Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Tuesday that in the 11 years from 1997 to 2008, the rate of death doubled in South Africa.

In 2007, the total number of deaths - from all causes - registered in South Africa was 573 408; in 2008 this figure had leapt to 756 062.

Motswaledi pinned the blame for the current scale of the pandemic squarely on the denialist health policies pursued by former president Thabo Mbeki's government.

Mabasa said the treatment threshold of 200 should be lifted to a CD4 count of between 300 and 350, which would be in line with global trends.

"This must apply to both public and private sector, as HIV/Aids does not discriminate. We are cognisant that this step will result in more people requiring treatment and thus there would be financial implications, and government must be committed to it."