Deaths due to HIV/Aids are seriously being underestimated in South Africa and may be as high as 61% according to a mathematical model, as many HIV/Aids related deaths are currently being indicated as pneumonia or diarrhoea on death certificates.
This is according to research form the University of Stellenbosch’s health sciences faculty which was published in the journal Aids.
According to Dr Lené Burger, a member of the research team who presented these findings at the faculty’s annual academic day, HIV/Aids related deaths are often being classified incorrectly on death certificates. This has far reaching implications.
Underlying causes of death, as indicated on death certificates, were compared with the medical records of 683 deaths in Bonteheuwel and Langa (in the Western Cape) between June 2003 and May 2004. From the 129 HIV/Aids related deaths, only 27.1% were ascribed to HIV/Aids on the death certificate.
Statistics South Africa’s stats have estimated the death rate due to HIV/Aids at 2.4%. With a mathematical model it was estimated that number was estimated to in fact be 61%, as many HIV/Aids related deaths are incorrectly being classified as pneumonia or diarrhoea on death certificates.
Burger said that using euphemisms for HIV/Aids, such as “suppressed immune system” or “retroviral disease”, instead of saying HIV/Aids also causes problems.
“Underestimating the full impact of HIV/Aids influences policies, and more importantly, how budgeting for HIV/Aids is done,” said Burger.
Burger believes training is urgently needed in the medical profession with regards to how death certificates are being filled out. – (Alicestine October, Die Burger, August 2009)
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