December 15, 2006
South Africa's average life expectancy has declined by 13 years since 1990, from 64 years to 51 years, due to HIV/AIDS, according to a new survey by the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Actuarial Society of South Africa. Estimated life expectancy is now 49 years for males and 53 years for females.
Most disturbing is that infections are soaring among females ages 15 to 24, said Debbie Bradshaw, senior MRC researcher. So far in 2006, 160,000 women have been newly infected, and no improvement in the trend is anticipated in the near future. Behavioral changes and condom use have not been adopted enough to slow the epidemic, Bradshaw said.
"Mortality rates in 1990 suggested that a 15-year-old had a 29 percent chance of dying before the age of 60, but mortality rates in 2006 suggest that 15-year-olds have a 56 percent chance of dying before they reach 60," said the report.
Researchers used a mathematical model to detect the influence AIDS had on life expectancy estimates. "Approximately 230,000 HIV-infected individuals were receiving antiretroviral treatment and a further 540,000 were sick with AIDS but not receiving treatment," the report stated. "Together with a declining trend in fertility, HIV/AIDS is also expected to lead to a noticeable decline in the number of children over the next ten years."