Two leading AIDS experts in South Africa are questioning the findings of a study by the nation's former health department director-general that suggested the country's AIDS epidemic peaked in 2002, South Africa's Business Day reports. The study said the epidemic crested last year with 4.69 million people in the country infected with HIV and that lower transmission rates coupled with rising AIDS deaths would gradually reduce the number of HIV-positive people from now on. But professor Rob Dorrington, of the University of Cape Town's Centre for Actuarial Research, and Quarraisha Abdool Karim, a epidemiologist at the University of Natal in Durban, questioned whether the study showed anything more than the researchers' assumptions about future prevalence rates.
"The authors assumed the epidemic peaked in 2002 and then that prevalence levels declined. All their 'results' are thus contingent on these heroic assumptions," Dorrington said. Karim added that the study drew data from the 2002 Nelson Mandela-Human Sciences Research Council HIV/AIDS household survey, a study that has not been through a peer review process and appears to contain a number of flaws in the collection and interpretation of its data.