HIV blamed for substantial growth in death rates

Substantially more young women and men in their prime are dying and it’s probably due to HIV infection, Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) said on Thursday.

“For some sex-age groups and some causes of death the increase in death rates between 1997 and 2004 has been truly astounding,” said Stats SA in its 200-page report on adult mortality.

The report looks at deaths for people aged 15 to 64 from 1997 to 2004.

“This large increase in death rates has occurred for several causes of death for both males and females. It is concentrated in ages 20 to 44 and especially for communicable diseases,” says the report.

“It also occurs for some non-communicable diseases that exhibit an age pattern of mortality similar to HIV and that likely include a high proportion of deaths that are due to HIV.”


Overall, death rates rose for every five-year age group for each sex, except for males aged 15 to 19. “The death rates more than tripled for females age 20 to 39 and more than doubled for males aged 30 to 44.”

The report cannot definitively attribute the huge increase in deaths to HIV but says this is the probable cause. Death rates from deaths registered as HIV-related “increased greatly between 1997 and 2004”.

It says it is clear that not all HIV-related deaths are reported as such on death-notification forms. “Thus much effort has been devoted to an attempt to determine which other listed causes of death actually reflect these other HIV deaths.”

HIV death rates have a distinctive pattern by age in which there was an increase to a given age and then a rapid decline at older ages.

“This peak occurs at 30 to 34 for females and at 35 to 39 for males. It is clear that many HIV deaths are registered as being due to some other cause of death.”

Stats SA said it is likely that a “high proportion” of deaths registered as due to parasitic diseases or infections, certain immune system disorders and, for women, maternal conditions, are actually caused by HIV.

“Some registered causes of death rise to a peak with age, but then decline at older ages more slowly than HIV, especially for males,” says the report.

“For these registered causes of death, some of the deaths are likely actually due to HIV, but some of the deaths are likely due to something other than HIV. These causes of death include all infectious diseases, tuberculosis, malaria and nutritional deficiencies.”

There was “virtually no change” in cancer death rates for men or women. “For each sex, the death rate from cancer, stroke and other circulatory causes combined rose by 12% between 1997 and 2004.”

Malaria death rates rose to 1999 and then declined. Death rates from diabetes and obesity rose. Female death rates were always higher than male death rates, but the gap between the sexes has narrowed over time.

Stats SA said the report gives “a more complete picture of the level and causes of adult mortality than has been available previously”.

A higher percentage of all deaths were registered than in earlier years, with more than 85% of deaths in 2000 of those aged 15 and older being registered.

“Some cautions for the South African population are also pointed out, including the effects of diet, as shown in increasing diabetes death rates, and the risks of unnatural death from a variety of causes in the December holiday period.” — Sapa

On the net

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