South Africa Could Have Prevented 365,000 AIDS-Related Deaths if HIV Treatment Programs Had Been Implemented Sooner, Study Says
The South African government could have prevented about 365,000 AIDS-related deaths earlier this decade by providing antiretroviral drugs to HIV-positive people and by implementing a mother-to-child HIV prevention program, according to a study to be published in the Dec. 1 issue of the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, the New York Times reports (Dugger, New York Times, 11/26).
For the study, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health compared the HIV/AIDS policies of the South African government from 1999 through 2008 with those of neighboring Botswana and Namibia. According to AFP/Google.com, Botswana and Namibia began providing HIV treatment to people in need before South Africa (AFP/Google.com, 11/26). The researchers quantified the "human cost" of South Africa's "inaction" on HIV/AIDS by comparing the number of people who began receiving antiretrovirals between 2000 and 2005 with the estimated number of people who would have received drugs if a "workable" program had been implemented, according to the Times.
The study found that 23% of South Africans in need of HIV treatment were receiving it as of 2005 but that half of those in need could have been reached. Botswana was providing antiretrovirals to 85% of people in need by 2005, while Namibia was providing treatment to 71%, the study noted. The study concluded that as a result of a lack of treatment, 330,000 South African adults and 35,000 infants died prematurely of AIDS-related causes, resulting in the loss of a combined 3.8 million life years (New York Times, 11/26).
An abstract of the study is available online.