AIDS is now the leading cause of death in Africa, according to a report released on Tuesday by the World Health Organization (WHO). The annual World Health Report also notes that AIDS has become the fourth most common cause of death worldwide. Last year, it was ranked as the seventh leading cause of death. Heart disease, stroke, and acute lower respiratory infection are the only causes of mortality that are more common worldwide than AIDS, according to the report. The report ranks the world's major causes of mortality, morbidity, and disability each year using data supplied by WHO and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).
In 1998, AIDS killed approximately 2 million Africans, the report states. In addition to being a major cause of mortality, AIDS is the principal cause of premature death and disability in developing countries. AIDS has been with us for just 20 years and already it is killing more people than any other infectious disease. It is the most formidable pathogen to confront modern medicine, with the potential to undermine this century's massive improvements in health and well-being of people around the world.