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Study: 330,000 Lives Lost Due to South African AIDS Policies

A new Harvard University study says more than 330,000 deaths due to HIV and AIDS in South Africa could have been prevented if anti-retroviral drugs had been provided to patients.

Authors of the Harvard School of Public Health study to be published Monday says the deaths are directly attributable to South African policies restricting or delaying the use of available anti-retroviral treatments.

They also report about 35,000 babies were born with HIV between 2000 and 2005 because a feasible mother-to-child transmission program was not implemented.

The study says the government of former South African President Thabo Mbeki restricted the use of donated anti-retroviral drugs and blocked funding for additional drugs.

The researchers compared the use of the drugs in the neighboring countries of Botswana and Namibia, which faced similar AIDS epidemics but aggressively implemented anti-retroviral programs. Both nations saw significantly lower rates of HIV and AIDS.

Mr. Mbeki resigned from office in September, after a power struggle with the head of South Africa's ruling party.

Meanwhile, another new study suggests the virus that causes AIDS theoretically could be eliminated in about a decade, if all people living in countries with high infection rates were tested and treated.

In a study published Wednesday, AIDS researchers with the World Health Organization said a new mathematical model shows that infections of the AIDS virus could be cut by 95 percent within 10 years of implementing such a program.

They said the model assumes that 90 percent of the population is screened for AIDS and that those infected immediately begin anti-retroviral treatment.

Critics said the study does not take into account the possibility of increased drug resistance, and they said possible drawbacks of the strategy are over-testing, over-treatment and side-effects in patients.