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AIDS Anal Afr. 1995 Dec;5(6):4-5.

WHO criticised for "inflating" AIDS figures.



The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued exaggerated projections about AIDS deaths that the press picked up to paint an apocalyptic future for Africa. Computer models used by WHO estimate that 2-3 million people in Africa are suffering or have died from AIDS since the early 1980s and another 10 million are carrying HIV. WHO surveys during 1987 indicated HIV seroprevalence rates from 5% to 30%. The Global Program on AIDS (GPA) utilized these data to predict 6.5 million new AIDS deaths annually by 1997, which would reduce population growth in urban areas by over 30%. This projection seems to be an exaggeration. The same 1987 figures were used to predict AIDS deaths for 1992. Using the highest seroprevalence rate of 30%, the WHO model predicted a high scenario of 6 million new AIDS deaths in 1992, when in fact the cumulative cases were only 331,376 in 1994. Even the low scenario of a 5% seroprevalence rate predicted 750,000 new AIDS cases for 1992, whereas the 1% rate suggested 500,000 new AIDS cases. Another projection made in 1994 estimated only 350,000 new AIDS cases for Africa in 1994. The discrepancies between projections and recorded figures are attributable to lack of statistical data and reliable reporting of mortality. National estimates are derived from censuses and surveys which are overextrapolated. Since 1985, AIDS has been defined in Africa on the basis of clinical observation (chronic diarrhea or prolonged fever and persistent cough or herpes) because of lack of HIV testing facilities. However, it is impossible to tell whether someone who develops malaria does so because of AIDS or because of normal impaired immunity. This definition has inflated the estimated AIDS figures. The danger of the AIDS epidemic is dwarfed by 3.5 million deaths from tuberculosis and 16.8 million deaths from malaria since the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. The frightening scenario looms that widespread, but curable, diseases are wrongly classified as AIDS-related complex, thereby foregoing appropriate treatment.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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