Aids Focus

Mbeki blamed for Aids crisis

2009-11-11 06:58

Special Report

Cape Town - Health Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on Tuesday unveiled what he himself described as shocking figures showing a huge Aids-related leap in South Africa's death rate.

"In 11 years [from 1997 to 2008], the rate of death has doubled in South Africa. That is obviously something that cannot but worry a person," he told a media briefing at Parliament.

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

The health minister called for urgent implementation of a campaign to create a "massive change in behaviour and attitude" towards Aids among citizens.

Death rate up 100%

He said that 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.

"If this trend goes on - I don't have 2009 figures, [but] we might easily have reached 900 000 [deaths] by now - I'm worried because... in 1997 the death rate was about 300 000.

"If in 2008 it's 756 062 it means the rate of deaths increased by more than 100% within... 11 years," he said.

Researchers attribute the sharp rise in the total number of registered deaths to the Aids pandemic.

They believe such a change in the death rate to be a better indicator of the spread of the pandemic than absolute HIV figures, because the majority of deaths due to HIV are misclassified.

Motsoaledi said the worst-affected provinces were KwaZulu-Natal (where the HIV prevalence rate in 2008, measured among ante-natal women, was 38.7%), followed by Mpumalanga (35.5%) and Free State (32.9%).

The least-affected provinces were the Northern and Western Cape (16.2% and 16.1% respectively).

'Wrong approach to disease'

Asked to what extent "denials" by the previous administration and an "abdication of the fight against Aids" had led to the current scale of the pandemic, Motsoaledi said the fact that it had was obvious.

"On [the figures], it's shocking. As to whether it has been affected by what we did in the past 10 years, to me that's obvious... I don't think we'd have been here if we'd approached the problem in a different way.

"It's a really obvious question. Yes, our attitude toward HIV/Aids put us here where we are," he said.

Contacted for comment later on Tuesday, former president Mbeki's spokesperson, Mukoni Ratshitanga told Sapa: "No, he [Mbeki] would not like to comment."

Motsoaledi cited the current relatively low incidence of Aids in the Western Cape as an example of how providing antiretrovirals to HIV positive people could reduce incidence of the disease.

"I have shown you figures of how the Western Cape reversed [the trend]. Infant mortality in the province dropped... within three years [between 2003 and 2006] because of extensive dual [antiretroviral] therapy. So you can reverse it... if you develop good strategies."

The majority of the Aids deaths were among young people, particularly young women.

SA carrying global Aids burden

According to figures published in The Lancet medical journal, South Africa was carrying a huge part of the global Aids burden.

"We are 0.7% of the world population, but we are carrying 17% of its HIV/Aids burden... When you take the global average of HIV/Aids, the country is 23 times the global average," he said.

Other figures presented by Motsoaledi include a massive increase in the number of people dying from tuberculosis, the main cause of death in HIV-infected people.

A total of 22 071 people died of TB in 1997; in 2005, 73 903 people died of this disease, a 334.8% increase, and seven times the global average.

Further, a total of 57% of children who died during 2007, died as a result of HIV.

Life expectancy in South Africa was an estimated 13 years below what it would be without HIV - in 2006, 56 years for women, and 51 years for men.

Motsoaledi said strategic leadership was needed in the campaign to check the pandemic.


Read more on:    aaron motsoaledi  |  thabo mbeki  |  hiv aids

Read News24’s Comments Policy


Inside News24

  • Friday Grabouw - 11:32 AM
    Road name: N2 Eastbound
    DELAYS between Sir Lowrys Pass and Grabouw
  • Friday Cape Town - 10:14 AM
    Road name: M3 Inbound
    EVENT - left lane closed between Rhodes Avenue and UCT
More traffic reports...

Jobs in Cape Town [change area]

Property [change area]

Travel - Look, Book, Go!

Escape winter, head to Mauritius

Escape winter by spending 7 nights in Mauritius' tropical bliss from R13 215 per person sharing. Includes return flights, airport transfers and accommodation. Book now! - shop online today

Get many eggs in one basket!

Gaming bundles: 2 Super Hits games for R99, 3 Disney games for R99 and more + exclusive accessory bundles only available on While stocks last. Shop now!

25% off bestselling books!

The Real Meal Revolution by Tim Noakes, Jeffrey Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish for, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor E. Frank and many more titles. Shop now!

Up to 25% off electronics

Buy top electronics and save up to 25%. Such as’s 1# selling product the gobii eReader, Patriot X Porter flash drive, Asus Nexus 7” 3G tablet, Samsung Galaxy SIII, Lenovo G580 Notebook and many more. Shop now!

DStv HD PVR Decoder now R949

The DStv HD PVR Decoder has further revolutionised the television experience with lifelike viewing, sharper images, more vibrant colours and precision picture quality. Now R949, save R550. Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now!

Up to 30% off appliances & homeware

Save up to 30% on appliances and homeware this Easter! Offer valid while stocks last. Shop now.

OLX Free Classifieds [change area]

Samsung Galaxy s4

Mobile, Cell Phones in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 24

Best bargain in big bay

Real Estate, Houses - Apartments for Sale in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

VW Golf 6, 1.6 Trendline (Excellent condition)

Vehicles, Cars in South Africa, Western Cape, Cape Town. Date October 25

BlackBerry Curve 8520

Wi-Fi enabled With the BlackBerry Curve 8520 connect to your home...

From R1100.00

I'm shopping for:


Self-indulgence may be strong today. You may want to enjoy yourself to the fullest and share it with those that make you more

There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.