AIDS Is Cutting Global
Life Expectancy
By Edith M. Lederer
AP Writer
UNITED NATIONS (AP) -- As the 21st century approaches, the world is aging rapidly, couples are having fewer children, and AIDS is taking such a "devastating toll" in Africa that life expectancy is declining, according to U.N. population estimates released Wednesday.
Even though fertility is continuing to decline in much of the world, global population is expected to climb to 6 billion in 1999 -- and the AIDS epidemic will not reverse Africa's population growth, the U.N. Population Division said.
Last year, AIDS killed 2.3 million adults and children, and 30 million people are currently infected by the HIV virus. According to the U.N. figures, 91 percent of AIDS deaths occurred in 34 countries, 29 in sub-Sahara Africa.
But in the 29 African countries hardest-hit by AIDS, the population will remain the same or continue climbing because fertility in these countries is high, according to the U.N. estimates.
The continuing spread of AIDS is nonetheless having serious population repercussions: children born today in those 29 African countries will have an average life expectancy of 47 years rather than 54 years if there had not been an AIDS epidemic, the U.N. said.
And the demographic impact "is expected to intensify in the future," especially in the nine African countries where more than 10 percent of the adult population has the HIV virus -- Botswana, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe, it said.
"By 2010-2015, the average life expectancy at birth in these countries could be only 47 years. In the absence of AIDS, it would have been expected to reach 63 years. This represents 16 years of life expectancy lost to AIDS," the U.N. said.
The population estimates and projections are prepared every two years by the Population Division of the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. The figures are used throughout the United Nations system.
According to the new estimates, world population stood at 5.9 billion in mid-1998, and was growing by 1.33 percent per year, an average of 78 million people. Countries adding the most population were India, China, Pakistan, Indonesia, Nigeria, the United States, Brazil, Bangladesh, Mexico and the Philippines.
The 1995-2000 population growth rate is significantly less that the peak growth rate of 2.04 percent in 1965-70, and less than the rate of 1.46 percent in 1990-95, the U.N. said.
Depending on future fertility trends, the world's population in 2050 is projected to be in the range of 7.3 billion to 10.7 billion, it said.
Africa has the highest population growth rate of all major regions of the world -- 2.36 percent. And during the last two years, Africa's population, now 749 million, surpassed Europe's, which is currently 729 million, the U.N. said.
In contrast, Europe has the lowest growth rate, just 0.03 percent, and in Eastern Europe the rate is minus 0.2 percent, indicating a population decline, it said.
The developed world has led the process of population aging since the beginning of the 20th century -- and Europe is most affected. The proportion of older people in Europe will increase from 20 percent in 1998 to 35 percent in 2050, the U.N. said.
For the first time, U.N. experts estimated the number of people in their 80s, 90s and over 100 -- and found 66 million people over 80 including 6.4 million over 90 and 135,000 centinarians.
"With the continuation of fertility decline and increase in life expectancy, the population of the world will age much faster in the next half-century than previously," the U.N. said.