Editorial: The good news on death stats

“One of the best ways to help the living is by counting the dead,” Statistics South Africa said in its report on mortality in South Africa, released this week. It says that HIV-related disease as a cause of death has moved up from sixth to third place. But public health experts say this is actually good news: doctors who used to give tuberculosis or meningitis as the causes of deaths from HIV are now more comfortable with saying HIV itself was the cause.

The country’s overall mortality rate decreased by 6.5% between 2012 and 2013. In other words, fewer people in South Africa are dying. A 2012 Lancet study directly linked this increased life expectancy – from 54 years in 2009 to 60 years in 2012 – to the public sector’s HIV treatment programme, which now provides free antiretrovirals to 2.7?million HIV-positive South Africans.

HIV expert Salim Abdool-Karim estimates that, in the past, HIV-related deaths made up a third to 40% of the annual total. Stats SA’s numbers do not reflect this: over the past two years, reported HIV deaths have increased from 3.1% to 5.1%.

A 2011 World Health Organisation bulletin, however, said that up to 94% of deaths from Aids between 1996 and 2006 were misclassified. The increase reported by Stats SA could be a result of the improved filling-in of death notifications.

An alarming shift is the increase in diabetes as a cause of death: 4.8% of all deaths recorded last year. South Africa has one of the fastest-growing diabetes epidemics in the world, with obesity at its root. The Lancet said we are the fattest nation in Africa: 70% of women and 40% of men have much more body fat than is healthy.

Ironically, the fact that HIV-positive South Africans are now living longer is also contributing to higher diabetes figures, because the condition generally emerges later in life.

But the gain of South Africans living longer should not be underestimated: we now have significantly more people to contribute to the country’s economy because, unlike most diseases, which prey on the oldest and youngest among us, HIV tends to kill people in the most productive years of their lives.

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.


‘Tenderpreneurs’ block the delivery of protective equipment to schools

Protests by local suppliers have delayed PPE delivery, which according to the DBE, is one of the reasons the reopening of schools has been pushed back until June 8

‘Soon he’ll be seen as threatening, not cute’: What it’s...

There is no separating George Floyd’s killing from the struggles black people have faced ever since the first slave ships landed on these shores

How schools could work during Covid

Ahead of their opening, the basic education department has given schools three models to consider to ensure physical distancing

Press Releases

Mining company uses rich seam of technology to gear up for Covid-19

Itec Direct technology provides instant temperature screening of staff returniing to the workplace with no human contact

Covid-19 and Back to School Webinar

If our educators can take care of themselves, they can take care of the children they teach

5G technology is the future

Besides a healthcare problem Covid-19 is also a data issue and 5G technology, with its lightning speed, can help to curb its spread

JTI off to court for tobacco ban: Government not listening to industry or consumers

The tobacco ban places 109 000 jobs and 179 000 wholesalers and retailers at risk — including the livelihood of emerging farmers

Holistic Financial Planning for Professionals Webinar

Our lives are constantly in flux, so it makes sense that your financial planning must be reviewed frequently — preferably on an annual basis

Undeterred by Covid-19 pandemic, China and Africa hold hands, building a community of a shared future for mankind

It is clear that building a community with a shared future for all mankind has become a more pressing task than ever before

Wills, Estate Administration and Succession Planning Webinar

Capital Legacy has had no slowdown in lockdown regarding turnaround with clients, in storing or retrieving wills and in answering their questions

Call for Expression of Interest: Training supply and needs assessment to support the energy transition in South Africa

GIZ invites eligible and professional companies with local presence in South Africa to participate in this tender to support the energy transition

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday