TB at top of the list of killers

By SHAUN SMILLIE Time of article published Dec 1, 2011

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Once again that rampant killer TB has claimed the most lives in SA.

Tuberculosis killed 82 821 people in the country in 2009, according to Statistics SA’s latest findings.

It accounted for 14.5 percent out of a total of 572 673 deaths registered with the Department of Home Affairs in 2009.

Stats SA believe that 7 percent of deaths in 2009 went unrecorded. But TB might just be an accomplice. The underlying cause of these TB deaths could be HIV/ Aids.

“HIV/Aids is not a notifiable condition, TB is a notifiable condition.

“It makes it difficult to work out how many people are dying of HIV,” said Kefiloe Masiteng, the deputy director-general of population and social statistics at Stats SA.

Notifiable means a doctor doesn’t need to mark that the patient has HIVAids. Studies, said Masiteng, have suggested that 80 percent of TB sufferers might be infected with HIV/Aids.

On Wednesday Masiteng released the mortality and causes of death in South Africa 2009.

Some of Stats SA’s other findings were more encouraging.

Fewer people died between 2008 and 2009, a trend that began in 2007. Between 2008 and 2009 the total number of deaths declined by 3.8 percent. The latest mortality statistics also reveal that the rate of death is declining among young adults.

Deaths among males aged between 20 and 44 decreased by 6.6 percent and for women of the same age by 9.7 percent.

Also, the disparity in the number of deaths between adult males and females is beginning to even out.

In 1997, males accounted for 56 percent of all deaths. Now the figure is far closer.

“Only in Limpopo are there more female deaths than males,” said Stats SA’s Dr Maletela Tuoane-Nkhasi.

The leading cause of death for young adults in 2009 was TB.

Aids-related deaths increased, according to the study, by 3.1 percent from 2008.

While young adults were showing a decline in mortality, the highest percentage of deaths due to non-natural causes was shown in the 15-19 age group.

Non-natural causes include motor accidents, drownings, murders and electrocution.

However, in 2009, 4 000 fewer people died of non-natural causes than in 1997.

Number two on the death list after TB is “flu and pneumonia”.

But in an attempt to obtain truer figures on HIV/Aids-related deaths, Stats SA has introduced a training programme for doctors to provide more detailed information on death certificates, in particular information on HIV/ Aids infection. - The Star

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