Open letter to South Africa’s students‚ universities and government‚ represented by Minister in the .
AIDS expert Alan Whiteside says the decrease in the national death rate is highly significant.
"I believe the reason for this is because antiretroviral (ARV) therapy is being rolled out across the country," said the University of KwaZulu-Natal-based academic.
"Perhaps not fast enough or far enough, but there are many hundreds of thousands of people who are alive, and staying alive, because they were able to access treatment. If there were no treatment, then (they) would be dead."
Whiteside was commenting after Statistics SA's recently released report stating that the number of deaths in the country has declined for the first time - by 1,8percent between 2006 and 2007.
The report shows that the number of people dying in all age groups below 55 has dropped for males and females.
These were figures based on all death notification forms received from the Department of Home Affairs for deaths that occurred in 2007.
The department processed a total of 601133 deaths within the 2008/09 processing phase.
According to the report, KwaZulu-Natal experienced deaths ranging between 13000 to 15000.
"Besides deaths reported as linked to other external causes of injuries and to events of undetermined intent, most deaths were associated with transport accidents and assault," the report said.
A higher proportion of male deaths were due to assaults and most female deaths in the province were due to transport accidents.
The percentages of deaths due to unnatural causes were highest among the coloured population group (13percent) and the Indian/Asian group (11,1percent).
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease was the ninth leading cause of death. The other most common causes of death in 2007 were influenza and pneumonia, intestinal infectious diseases, heart disease and cerebrovascular diseases.