05 May 2008

Manto lying about Aids stats: DA

The DA has accused health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang of keeping Aids statistics low, after a controversial new report was released by the Development Bank of South Africa.

The Democratic Alliance on Monday (DA) accused health minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang of keeping Aids statistics low, after the release of a highly controvercial new report by the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA).

The DBSA report has come in for some severe criticism. According to Nathan Geffen, of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), the report was plagiarised from work done by the Actuarial Society of South Africa (ASSA).

"His (referring to Johan Calitz, lead author of the study) numbers are hopelessly wrong; it's shoddy incompetent work lifted from the ASSA2000 model which is out-of-date (and has been replaced by ASSA2002 and subsequently ASSA2003) and does not account for prevention of mother-to-child transfer of HIV or the rollout of antiretroviral drugs", said Geffen.

According to Geffen the DBA study amounts to gross academic incompetence, even plagiarism. "Calitz has generated confusion. The ASSA researchers are extremely angry; so am I", he said.

Minister must explain
Meanwhile, DA spokeswoman and member of parliament, Sandy Kalyan said that "The minister of health must explain why official statistics are so low".

Kalyan said the report suggested that 2.2 million more people were becoming sick and dying of Aids than government figures showed. "The Minister of Health needs to be interrogated about how her department collects the data that it bases its treatment programmes on."

"While the minister's claims, on the basis of departmental information, that the epidemic is now stabilising, this report indicates otherwise, in fact, it suggests that almost one in six South Africans is HIV positive."

Wrong figures could have dire consequences
Kalyan explained that if the department of health was using incorrect figures, then it meant that all the calculations on the number of people who needed treatment, the number of staff and the quantity of drugs required would be wrong.

"It's ironic that last month the minister slammed a UN report - which showed South Africa falling drastically behind [in the Millennium development goals] - for information collated from small samples.

"Yet this is exactly how her department compiles its own statistics, with snap samples from a handful of clinics, in contrast to the DBSA report, which was based on information from many grass-roots sources in addition to clinics, local municipalities, development planners, mortuaries and funeral homes."

Kalyan said her party would ask parliament whether the DBSA report could spark a review of the reliability of government statistics and if necessary call the minister to brief the health portfolio committee.

- (Sapa/Health24)

May 2008

Read more:
Manto rejects WHO guidelines
TAC welcomes new HIV guidelines


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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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