HIV now third-leading cause of death in SA

2014-12-02 13:41

More men than women are dying from HIV despite a decrease in the number of deaths related to infectious diseases.

Statistician-General Pali Lehohla today released last year’s statistics on the causes of deaths in South Africa at a press briefing in Pretoria.

Lehohla revealed that HIV has become the third-leading cause of death in the country, slowly climbing up as one of the leading causes of death after it was pegged at number six in 2012 and seventh between 2009 and 2011.

The findings were released a day after South Africa commemorated World Aids Day.

“Ranking natural causes of death that occurred in 2013 placed HIV as the third-leading cause of death in South Africa. The virus has moved from being the seventh leading underlying natural cause of death during 2009-2011 and sixth in 2012.

“In 2013 it was responsible for 6% of all deaths, affecting relatively more males than females,” said Lehohla.

He said the results could be an indication that doctors were becoming more “comfortable” recording HIV as an underlying cause of death. In the past doctors were reluctant to state it as a cause and opted to use euphemisms such as “immune compromised” or “retroviral disease positive”.

Lehohla said reporting HIV as the main cause of death could also be as a result of the training of doctors on how to record deaths when certifying deaths.

“Overall results show a consistent decline in the number of deaths due to infectious diseases, yet the number of deaths due to HIV disease is on the increase. The increase is particularly noted where the deceased had both HIV disease and tuberculosis. In these cases HIV disease will most probably be the underlying cause of death,” said Lehohla.

There were also fewer deaths last year compared with 2012. There were 458 933 recorded deaths in South Africa in 2013 compared with 514 925 in the previous year.

Single people accounted for the highest number of deaths. The records showed that 228 438 people were recorded as having never been married, 110 262 were married, 38 681 were widowed and 8 749 were divorced.

The leading causes of death were:

» Tubercolosis 8.8%

» Influenza and pneumonia 5.2%

» HIV or Aids 5.1%

» Cerebrovascular diseases 4.9%

» Diabetes mellitus 4.8%

» Other forms of heart diseases 4.6%

» Hypertensive diseases 3.7%

The rate of death for the country’s 52-million population showed that an average of 8.6 people died for every 1 000 people. The Free State province had the highest rate at 12.1 per 1 000 people followed by Northern Cape at 11.8. Gauteng and the Western Cape had the lowest death rate, both at 7.7 deaths per 1000.

Lehohla said diabetes, which did not register in the top five in recent years, was becoming a “prominent killer” and both men and women are succumbing to the disease.

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