Lay diagnosis of causes of death for monitoring AIDS mortality in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Tekebash Araya, Georges Reniers, Ab Schaap, Derege Kebede, Abera Kumie, Nico Nagelkerke, Roel Coutinho, Eduard Sanders

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Lay diagnoses of death collected at burial sites were validated against two 'gold standards': the hospital discharge diagnosis of causes of death obtained by a surveillance of hospital deaths (including autopsy results) and the physician review of verbal autopsies (VAs) that were carried out for a sample of cemetery records. The diagnostic indicators of the lay diagnoses were then used to provide estimates of the share of AIDS-attribuTable mortality. The verbal autopsy results provide an independent estimate of the percentage of AIDS deaths. From a total of 21 274 burial records, 2546 hospital discharge diagnoses, 1480 outcomes of autopsies and 200 adult verbal autopsies were gathered over a period of 1 year starting from February 2001. Independent of the gold standard, lay diagnoses such as lung disease and cold have a specificity of about 90% and a combined sensitivity of about 55% in determining AIDS mortality. Without a significant loss in specificity, the sensitivity increases to 60-65% when diarrhoea, TB, herpes zoster and mental or nerve problem are included. We thus conclude that even in the presence of a reluctance to talk of HIV/AIDS, lay diagnosis of causes of death can be used for monitoring AIDS mortality. Lung disease and cold, in particular, have become well-known euphemisms for AIDS in the community. The share of AIDS deaths in the adult population (20-54) is estimated at 68%, without noticeable differences between men and women. Our results confirm the high impact of HIV/AIDS on mortality as was estimated by epidemiological projections for Addis Ababa.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)178-186
Number of pages9
JournalTropical Medicine and International Health
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Addis Ababa
  • Adult mortality
  • Burial surveillance
  • Cause of death
  • Ethiopia
  • Hospital surveillance
  • Lay diagnosis
  • Methodology
  • Sub-Saharan Africa
  • Verbal autopsy
  • Vital statistics

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Infectious Diseases


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