After HIV/AIDS Warning Went Unheeded in 1990s, Peter Doyle Reemphasizes Intervention in South Africa
In 1990, then-head actuary of Metropolitan Life Insurance Peter Doyle predicted "with uncanny accuracy the coming devastation" of AIDS in South Africa, but the Doyle Model, as his original forecast came to be known, was received with "disbelief, derision -- and inaction," the Philadelphia Inquirer reports in a feature on Doyle. The Doyle Model was established on the assumption that different groups are at different levels of risk for the virus, such as those with multiple partners versus single partners, and is based on the "intimate understanding of the sexual habits of various population groups." The model also projected a range of directions the AIDS epidemic could move in South Africa, but the "best scenario" was dependent upon condom acceptance among the public, the promotion of monogamous relationships and the development of a campaign to treat STDs "aggressively." The country has only recently implemented condom distribution, and "has not dared to take on taboo issues about sexual relations," according to the Inquirer. "People take a long time to internalize AIDS," Doyle said, adding that the disease is "laced with sexuality and racism issues." With South Africa in transition from a white minority government to the presidency of Nelson Mandela in the early 1990s, and the subsequent threat of civil war, "AIDS just never made it to the top of the agenda," Doyle explained. The Inquirer reports that Doyle predicts that by 2010, 22.5% of the South African workforce will be HIV-positive. Although he conceded that his model "conveys an idea of inevitability," he stated, "Despite the loss of a window of opportunity, at any point intervention can be powerful. We could save 20 million lives worldwide if we act now" (Maykuth, Philadelphia Inquirer, 6/15).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.