I once had an opportunity to debate Mr. Achmat about 6 years ago on a radio program in the U.S. called "Democracy Now." During that one-hour program, he exhibited a weak grasp of South African history, demonstrated an even poorer understanding of statistics, and on all issues related to AIDS impressed me as someone with no training in the scientific method, political economy or history.
Nothing he has said or written in the intervening years would cause me to alter that opinion. Your article prompts me, however, to make some observations and raise a few questions.
South Africa maintains the most reliable mortality and morbidity registry of any African state, in trying to determine how many cases of AIDS were officially reported in South Africa over the period 1995-2005, aggregated according to the country’s nine provinces and perhaps listed by race, ethnicity, gender and age. However, the available statistics only cover “HIV diseases.”
The most accurate data now available comes from the May 2006 publication by Statistics South Africa,"Mortality and Causes of Death in South Africa, 2003 and 2004: Findings From Death Notification", which includes vital statistics back to 1997. This publication arranges the data in a statistical category called "Leading Underlying Natural Causes of Death" for South Africa from 1997-2004.
In 1999, the year that Thabo Mbeki became President of South Africa, there was a total of 9,782 deaths (in a country with a population then of 42 million) whose cause was officially listed as "HIV Diseases." That number represented 2.6% of all deaths in South Africa for 1999.
In the province of KwaZulu-Natal in 1999 the total number of deaths attributed to “HIV Diseases” was 1,899, or 2.3% of all provincial deaths that year. For the next five years there ensued bruising policy debates about the efficacy of HAART and ARVs amidst alarming predictions of a looming "HIV/AIDS" holocaust about to engulf South Africa.
In 2004, the total number of South African deaths (in a country then of 46 million) whose cause was officially listed as "HIV Diseases" was 13,590. That number represented only 2.3% of ALL deaths in South Africa that year, a decrease from 2.6% five years earlier.
For 2004, "HIV diseases" were officially ranked #21 in the list of leading causes of death for South Africa. I have no way of ascertaining from this data exactly how any attending physician, health care worker, or coroner knew for certain that so-called "HIV diseases" were the underlying cause of death.
Can you explain how that works? If not, perhaps Mr. Achmat can enlighten us.
Meanwhile, in KwaZulu-Natal for 2004, the total number of deaths attributed to “HIV disease” that year was 3044, which corresponded exactly to the same 2.3% of all provincial deaths that were reported five years earlier.
The statistics given in mid-2006 by Statistics South Africa, that state the data on death rates from “HIV diseases” from 1997 to 2004 in South Africa reveals other interesting anomalies from select provinces:
1) In 1997 in KwaZulu-Natal Province, “HIV diseases” accounted for 2.2% of all its deaths; in 2004, it was 2.3%.
2) In 1997 in Mpumalanga Province, “HIV diseases” accounted for 2.3% of all its deaths; in 2004 it was 2.2%.
3) In 1997 in Limpopo Province, “HIV diseases” accounted for 2.3% of all its deaths; in 2004, it was 2.0%.
4) In 1997 in Free State Province, “HIV diseases” accounted for 3.9% of all its deaths; in 2004, it was 2.1%.
5) Even for South Africa as a whole, in 1997 “HIV disease” was said to account for 2.0% of all deaths; in 2004 it had risen to 2.3%, but that was down from 2.6% in 1999.
Can you provide me with an explanation for these latest mortality statistics?
Which statistical sources do you rely upon when analyzing recent past patterns of mortality from HIV diseases in South Africa? There is a growing abundance of statistical data that supports exactly what President Mbeki has been suggesting for the past seven years.
It is time for journalists concerned with "bad science" to acknowledge the flaws, inconsistencies, errant predictions, and dangerous assumptions that characterize the orthodox position about AIDS.
A fine place to start is a superb analysis that identifies the numerous deficiencies in the HIV/AIDS theory that Mr. Achmat and others cling to with religious zealotry. It is called "Science Sold Out: Does HIV Really Cause AIDS," by mathematician Rebecca Culshaw (North Atlantic Books, 2007)
Professor of African History
California State University,
Chico Chico, California 95929