HIV/AIDS In Zimbabwe Has Reduced Life Expectancy, Not Affecting Population Growth

Armen Hareyan's picture

HIV/AIDS has reduced the life expectancy in Zimbabwe, but the country'soverall population growth remains unchanged as births continue tooutpace deaths, according to a study recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Reuters reports.


For the study, Simon Gregson of Imperial College Londonand colleagues examined an area in eastern Zimbabwe between 1998 and2005. They found that the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the country has reducedthe life expectancy in rural areas by 19 years among men and 22 yearsamong women.

HIV/AIDS has reduced population growth bytwo-thirds in the most affected areas of Zimbabwe, but the overallgrowth rate remains unchanged at about 1% annually, Gregson said. Theepidemic has had a "devastating effect on countries like Zimbabwe, butin terms of demographic impact, it has not had as much of an impact assome of the most pessimistic estimates," Gregson said, adding, "Ourresearch shows that, in spite of countless people having lost theirlives to the virus, more people are still being born than are dying."

According to Reuters, the purpose of the study was to test the accuracy of a 1989 World Health Organizationstudy that estimated population growth rates in sub-Saharan Africawould become negative because of HIV/AIDS. Gregson said the 1989estimates were inaccurate because researchers at the time did notrealize that behavior contributing to the spread of the virus differedwithin populations and that transmission rates and other factorschanged during the stages of infection. "The prevalence of HIV has beencoming down in the last few years, and as more people receivetreatment, we hope the death rate will also soon start to go down,"Gregson said, adding that the effects of the HIV/AIDS epidemic are"substantial and still unfolding." Gregson said the new findings likelyare representative of trends in other parts of Africa (Kahn, Reuters, 8/27).

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