A Growing Population and HIV/AIDS

Cecile Enie

What affect has the AIDS pandemic had on population, life expectancy and fertility rates worldwide?

The United Nations Fund for Population Activities (UNFPA) promotes the human rights of every woman, man and child to enjoy a life of health and equal opportunity. Every minute, one woman dies during pregnancy and birth because she did not receive adequate care and prompt treatment. By increasing the intervention for safe motherhood, we can save the lives of half a million women and seven million infants, and prevent millions of women from suffering from infections, injury and disability each year.

HIV/AIDS is becoming more of global crises every day. At present, 40 million adults and children are living with HIV/AIDS, and at least 10.4 million children currently under the age of 15 have lost their mother or both parents to AIDS.

Perhaps nowhere is the need for reproductive health services more urgent than in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Every day, 14,000 people are newly infected, and half are young people under the age of 25. Many know little about the disease and how the virus is transmitted. Young women are especially vulnerable and more likely to be infected than young men. Reproductive health services that empower women and people with life-saving information and skills will help prevent HIV from spreading and reduce further suffering and social and economic disruption.

According to 2004 estimates by the population division of the UN Secretariat, despite declining fertility rates, world population is expected to rise in the next 45 years by 2.6 billion, to reach a total of 9.1 billion in 2050. Nearly all the growth will take place in less developed countries, and will be concentrated among the poorest populations in urban areas. The population of the 50 poorest countries is projected to more than double by 2050, and to at least triple in Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Chad, Congo, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea -Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Timor – Lester and Uganda, Sub – Saharan Africa, the world's poorest region, is the fastest growing, despite increasing population losses from AIDS deaths.

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Overall figures on life expectancy in developed countries mark some striking regional differences. They have been increases in mortality and a severe decline in life expectancy in Eastern Europe since the late 1980s. Particularly in the Russian Federation and the Ukraine. In 2005 life expectancy in Eastern Europe was 66.6 lower than it was in 1955. Better life expectancy in the poorest countries depends on the implementation of effective programs to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS. AIDS have killed some 20 million people since 1981: 3.1 million people died in 2004. Today 39.4 million are HIV positive, the highest level ever. In 2004 alone 4.9 million people were newly infected. Women are increasingly at risk.

With regards to HIV/AIDS and population, the AIDS pandemic has had an impact on life expectancy and population growth, particularly in Sub – Saharan Africa, where it is more prevalent In Sub Saharan Africa life expectancy decline precipitously from 62 in the first half of the 1990s to 48 just ten years later. It projected to decrease even further to 43 over the next decade before a slow recovery starts. Botswana life expectancy decline is among the most alarming, with more than a third of the population infected with HIV in 2003, life expectancy has fallen from 65 to 37 in less than two decades.

As a result of AIDS, population growth in the region is slow down in the next 15 years. In Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland the population will actually decrease, as deaths outnumber births. In most of the other developing countries, affected by the pandemic, population will continue to grow, as moderate or high fertility will outweigh the rise in mortality. The number of people living with HIV has been rising in every region with the steepest increases in East Asia, Eastern Europe and Central Asia: In East Asia, the number of people who are HIV positive rose by almost 50 % between 2002 and 2004, an increase that is attributed largely to China's growing epidemic in Eastern Europe and Central Asia, there were 40% more people living with HIV in 2004 than in 2002. The AIDS epidemic is increasingly affecting women and girls globally; just under half of all people living with HIV are female. In Sub- Saharan Africa 76% of young people 15 – 24 years old living with HIV are female.

Condoms can save lives by preventing the sexual transmission of HIV. Access to testing and counseling must be given high priority in every country. Everyone has the right to voluntary and confidential counseling and testing for HIV/AIDS and the right to be protected from discrimination of any kind related to her or his HIV/AIDS status.

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