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Friday, 5 October, 2001, 09:35 GMT 10:35 UK
Aids 'leading killer' in South Africa
Aids patient
More than 4m South Africans have the HIV virus
South Africa's Aids epidemic has reached "shattering dimensions" and accounted for one in four deaths last year, say researchers.

A Medical Research Council report, suppressed by the government but leaked to the Johannesburg-based Mail and Guardian newspaper, says Aids has now become the leading cause of death in the country.

Unless it is curbed, the report warns, the disease will kill somewhere between five and seven million South Africans by 2010.

Source: Medical Research Council
Source: Medical Research Council

"Without treatment to prevent Aids, the number of Aids deaths can be expected to grow within the next 10 years to more than double the number of deaths due to all other causes," the report says.

South Africa is believed to have the highest number of Aids and HIV sufferers in the world - officially estimated at 4.7 million.

Disquiet

The report's leaking comes amid signs of growing unhappiness within the ruling party over President Thabo Mbeki's government's stance on Aids.

The party's health committee has now added its voice to calls for the release of the report in the interest of credibility

South African President Thabo Mbeki
President Mbeki has questioned the link between HIV and Aids

Two weeks ago a document was leaked from South Africa's Health Ministry warning that millions would die of Aids and recommending more widespread use of anti-retroviral drugs, against official policy.

It also questioned the very morality of President Thabo Mbeki's approach.

Mr Mbeki has described poverty as the biggest threat and killer in South Africa and has expressed doubts, both about the link between the HIV virus and Aids and the extent to which the disease has spread in South Africa.

Earlier this week the ruling party described the MRC report as "not credible".

The MRC delayed publication of it at the government's request.

See also:

21 Aug 01 | Africa
South Africa sued over Aids drugs
30 Jul 01 | Africa
Church rejects plea on condoms
09 Jun 01 | Africa
Funeral for child Aids icon
20 Jul 01 | Health
World's biggest health threats
15 Mar 01 | Africa
Analysis: Aids drugs and the law
24 Oct 00 | Aids
Aids drugs factfile
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