Updated 24 October 2016

How HIV/Aids affects SA population growth

If not for the ravages of HIV/Aids, there would be over 4.4 million more South Africans alive today.


So says the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR) in its latest South Africa Survey, published this week in Johannesburg.

Currently, there are 50.6 million people in the country. Without the HIV/Aids epidemic, this figure would have been around 55 million. By 2040 the population of South Africa would have been 77.5 million without the disease — 24.1 million more people than projected.

 One third of deaths Aids-related

The data shows that 31% of all deaths in 2011 were Aids-related. By 2015, this proportion will have risen to 33%. In 2025, there will be 121% more Aids deaths than there were in 2000. Also, the total number of people living with HIV/Aids in 2015 (6 million) will be double the number recorded in 2000 (3 million).

The SAIRR analysis is based on data sourced from the Actuarial Society of South Africa and the Institute for Futures Research (IFR).

According to the IFR, the HIV prevalence rate is higher among young African adults, resulting in fewer people in this group reaching old age compared to other races.

Population growth slowed at terrible cost

Mr Thuthukani Ndebele, a researcher at the Institute, said that HIV/Aids has resulted in a significantly slower population growth rate. This comes at a terrible cost of lives cut short in their prime and a host of social problems.

Not only does HIV/AIDS reduce life expectancy and increase mortality, but it is largely responsible for wider social ills such as orphanhood and child-headed households”, Ndebele said.

SA's average life expectancy stands at around a mere 54 years, which is well below global average. Also, it has declined since the end of the 20th century, which is contrary to the increasing global trend of gradually increasing life expectancy. 

According to a World Health Organisation report in May 2011, the average life expectancy globally is in the mid-60s. In most parts of the developed world, life expectancies are well into the 70s and 80s.

- SAIRR, adapted for Health24 by Olivia Rose-Innes, EnviroHealth Editor, January 2012 

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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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