The Demographic Impact of HIV/AIDS

United Nations Population Division Department of Economic and Social Affairs
1998

Summary

What is the demographic impact of AIDS in the world today? Where has it had the most devastating effect? This research by the United Nations Population Division assesses life expectancy and population growth in AIDS stricken countries.

As part of its research work programme, the United Nations Population Division studies the demographic impact of AIDS in the world. In its ‘1998 Revision’ of world population estimates and projections, special attention was given to those developing countries which are hardest-hit (population of one million or more and an adult HIV prevalence of two per cent or more) or exhibit a large share of the developing world’s HIV infections because of their large population size.

Among those countries, 29 are in Sub-Sahara Africa, three are in Asia (Cambodia, India and Thailand), and two are in Latin America and the Caribbean (Brazil and Haiti). Of the 30 million persons in the world currently infected with HIV, 26 million (85 per cent) reside in these 34 countries. In addition, 91 per cent of all AIDS deaths in the world have occurred in these 34 countries. There has been a devastating toll from AIDS with respect to mortality and population loss. In the 29 hard-hit African countries that are studied, life expectancy at birth is currently estimated at 47 years, seven years less than what could have been expected in the absence of AIDS. The demographic impact of AIDS is even more dramatic when focussing only on the hardest hit countries. For example:

  • The average life expectancy at birth in the nine countries with an adult HIV prevalence of 10 per cent or more is projected to reach 48 years in 1995-2000 whereas it would have reached 58 years in the absence of AIDS.
  • This group includes Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
  • In Botswana, the hardest-hit, one in every four adults is infected with HIV. In Zimbabwe, the second hardest hit, one of every five adults is infected.
  • In Botswana the annual population growth rate of 3.5 per cent in 1980-1985 has fallen to 2.9 per cent in 1990-1995. In Zimbabwe it has fallen from 3.3 per cent to near two per cent.
  • In South African one in every eight adults was infected with the virus in 1997. The epidemic began later here, so the demographic effects are yet to be felt.

Indeed, everywhere the demographic impact of HIV/AIDS is expected to intensify in the future.

  • By 2010-2015, the average life expectancy at birth in the nine hardest hit countries could be 47 years. Without AIDS, it would have been expected to reach 63 years, 16 years lost to AIDS.
  • However, in none of the 34 countries is the population expected to decline because of the AIDS epidemic.
  • By 2000-2005, life expectancy at birth is expected to drop to 41 years in Botswana, and Zimbabwe. Population growth is likely to fall to 1.2 per cent in Botswana, one per cent in Zimbabwe.
  • By 2005-2010 life expectancy at birth in South Africa is expected to drop to 45 years. Population growth, while remaining positive, is also expected to decrease to 0.3 per cent.

Source

United Nations Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, c.1998, The Demographic Impact of HIV/AIDS, UN Population Division.