22 October 2003


NEW YORK, 21 October (DESA) -- A new report showing the massive impact of HIV/AIDS on all sectors of society was released today by the United Nations Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA).  The study demonstrates that the AIDS epidemic will continue to have devastating consequences for decades to come for virtually every sector of society.  In many countries, the epidemic is undermining the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 2000.

The report, The Impact of AIDS, documents the sweeping impacts of HIV/AIDS on families and households, agricultural sustainability, business, the health sector, education, and economic growth.

HIV/AIDS is the deadliest epidemic of our time.  More than 22 million people have already lost their lives and more than 42 million are currently living with HIV/AIDS.  In many countries, especially in Africa, the AIDS epidemic has spread rapidly, leaving illness, death, poverty and misery in its wake.  In other countries, the disease is still in its early stages and its destructive effects are now beginning to be felt.

Key Report Findings

-- HIV/AIDS has a devastating demographic impact.  This is especially so in sub-Saharan Africa, where the epidemic began earliest and HIV prevalence is highest.  African countries with high HIV prevalence have death rates not seen since the 1950s or 1960s.  Recent United Nations projections show even more drastic losses over the coming decades.  About 100 million excess deaths are expected in these African countries by 2025 because of the toll of the HIV/AIDS epidemic.  Although the demographic impacts of HIV/AIDS in countries outside Africa are moderate, because their prevalence rates are lower, the human suffering and population losses they face are still enormous.  By 2025, AIDS is expected to cause 31 million excess deaths in India and 18 million more deaths in China.

-- The burdens of HIV/AIDS on families and households are staggering.  Typically, a family where the disease is present loses an adult in the prime of life, leaving behind not only a bereft family, but also often an HIV-infected spouse and infected children.  During the long period of illness, the loss of income and the cost of caring for family members may impoverish the household.  Adult deaths, especially of parents, often cause the break-up of households, with children being sent to live with relatives or becoming homeless.


-- The loss of farm workers to HIV/AIDS has serious ramifications for food security.  The 10 most severely affected African countries will lose between 10 and 26 per cent of their agricultural labour force by 2020.  Among the consequences of the loss of farm workers are reduction in land under cultivation, decline in crop yields, and a shortage of labour during periods of high labour demand.

-- Business enterprises are heavily impacted by the AIDS epidemic.  In particular, the most productive workers in the labour force often become too ill to work and eventually die.  Ill workers are less productive, as are those workers who must care for ill family members.  Also, the costs of paying health and death benefits and replacing experienced workers have serious financial implications for businesses and may cause them to become less competitive and eventually close down.

-- HIV/AIDS weakens the economy and stalls economic development.  Where HIV prevalence is high, workers are afflicted and the labour force weakens and shrinks.  Also, funds for investment and savings are often diverted to pay for health care and social welfare benefits for afflicted families.  As a result, economic development will likely stall or lose ground.

-- HIV/AIDS seriously threatens the education of children.  In households affected by HIV/AIDS, children are often taken out of school to help at home with care-giving or income-generating activities.  In addition, teachers are also dying of AIDS, eroding the quality of education.

-- HIV/AIDS threatens the viability of health-care systems.  Health-care systems were already inadequate in many affected countries even before HIV/AIDS struck. Treating AIDS and related opportunistic infections are placing heavy burdens on the health systems of a growing number of countries.

The study suggests that immediate and concerted actions to prevent new infections and to treat and care for people living with HIV/AIDS will mitigate the destructive consequences of an unchecked epidemic.  As stressed at the plenary session of the General Assembly on the follow-up to the Declaration of Commitment on HIV/AIDS of 22 September 2003, such actions include:

-- Strong and direct political leadership;

-- Greatly increased resources;

-- Comprehensive programmes of HIV prevention services; and

-- National strategies for the delivery of treatment and care.

The report concludes:  “The course of the HIV/AIDS epidemic is by no means pre-determined.  The eventual course of the disease depends on how individuals, communities, nations and the world respond to the HIV/AIDS threat today and tomorrow.”

The Impact of AIDS is available from the Population Division, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations, New York 10017, fax:  (212) 963-2147, tel.:  (212) 963-3179. The report is also available on the Population Division Web site,

For further information about this publication, please contact the Office of Joseph Chamie, Director of the United Nations Population Division, at the above fax and telephone numbers.

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