BuaNews, 22 November 2002, Editor's Note

A report on the findings of a research into the probable causes of death between 1997 and 2001, which was released by Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) in Pretoria yesterday, has put to rest several months of uncertainty and speculation regarding issues of mortality in the country.

The research document - a product of a Task Team comprising the departments of health, home affairs, social development and the Medical Research Council (MRC) - was commissioned by Cabinet after confusion and doubt reigned supreme following the release of an MRC report last year claiming that AIDS is the major cause of death in the country.

On the contrary, the latest report has revealed that the five underlying leading causes of death among South Africans are unnatural causes, ill-defined causes, TB, HIV and influenza/pneumonia.

The report, gleaned from registered deaths and death certificates recorded by medical practitioners or other appropriate authorities, notes that while infectious diseases have grown in prominence as causes of death, unnatural causes such as injuries, motor accidents, suicide and drowning still constitute the highest underlying causes of death among young males.

What is disturbing though, is the disclosure that females are more likely to be certified as having died from HIV, influenza and pneumonia, while there is a high prevalence of unspecified unnatural causes and TB among males.

Meanwhile, it is encouraging to note that government has introduced comprehensive health programmes to deal with HIV/AIDS and other diseases.

In addition to the AIDS Strategy, Cabinet has encouraged for awareness and change in lifestyles, systematic treatment of opportunistic infections, research into a vaccine and use of both antiretrovirals and alternative medication to reduce the impact of HIV.

Hence the Enhanced Response to HIV/AIDS, launched last year, will be increased by R3.3 billion over the next three years. For this reason, the fight against HIV/AIDS continues.