Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has told Parliament that South Africa’s death rate more than doubled from 1997 to 2008.
He acknowledged not only that AIDS is driving this escalation, but also that HIV denialism under former president Thabo Mbeki fuelled this trajectory.
“Our attitude toward HIV/Aids put us here where we are,” Motsoaledi said.
The total number of deaths registered in South Africa in 2007 from all causes was 573 408. By 2008 the death toll was 756 062.
“If this trend goes on – I don’t have 2009 figures, [but] we might easily have reached 900,000 [deaths] by now – I’m worried because… in 1997 the death rate was about 300,000,” he said.
“The rate of deaths increased by more than 100 percent within… 11 years.”
The South African Medical Association today expressed its concern at these figures and committed itself to support campaigns to stop HIV/AIDS.
South Africa’s Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi is proving to be a responsible leader like his predecessor Barbara Hogan.
In marked contrast to previous health ministers, he responded soberly, and not defensively, to six major Lancet papers published online today, on the critical state of South Africa’s health.
Motsoaledi told The New York Times: “We do take responsibility for what has happened and responsibility for how we move forward.”
The health minister, who took control in May, also promised to try to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission.
He confirmed this commitment at a maternal, neo-natal, child and women health summit in Johannesburg today, when he said he would take its recommendations on reducing child mortality and the death of mothers very seriously, and act on them as soon as possible.
His willingness to listen to doctors, nurses and scientists is hugely significant, given the history of conflict between those at the frontline and those in power.