AIDS Expert Warns South Africa Faces Potential ‘AIDS Holocaust’
A leading South African AIDS expert has issued a warning that South Africa faces a possible "AIDS Holocaust" if more effective measures are not taken to contain the spread of the disease. In an interview with Reuters, the president of the government-funded South African Medical Research Council, Melegapuru William Makgoba, stated that according to "new MRC modeling" supporting similar data compiled by the South African Actuarial Society, the United Nations and the United States, within the next 10 years, the disease could "claim" an estimated five million to seven million South Africans. "[The] estimated figure of between five to seven million people ... compares with the Holocaust figure of six million," he said. The South African government's own studies indicate that 4.2 million South Africans, one out of 10 in the general population, are already HIV-positive. South African insurance industry figures predict that life expectancy in South Africa will drop from the current age of 63 years to 41 years by 2010, with the HIV rate of infection currently at more than 2,000 people per day. A recently completed MRC mortality study suggests that HIV/AIDS is already responsible for "more than half" of deaths of people between the ages of 15 and 49, and increased mortality rates are most noticeable in women between the ages of 25-29, a rate that is three times the rate it was 10 years ago. According to economists at ING Barings, AIDS is expected to "dampen" South Africa's economic growth, increasing inflation, contributing to the present skilled-labor shortage and reducing investments. Makgoba emphasized the need for the South African government to explore the "decisive role" the availability of antiretroviral drugs, which are "virtually non-existent in the public health system" due to concerns over safety and cost, might play in battling HIV/AIDS. "We all must send one message, that is very important ... We have to accept there are effective and affordable antiretrovirals in the market and some countries like Uganda have used them," he said (Swindells, Reuters, 11/21).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.