JOHANNESBURG, South Africa — South Africa's population would be 4.4 million larger than it is today if not for the HIV/AIDS epidemic, new research has found.
South Africa's population is 50.6 million, but without AIDS-related deaths, it would have been 55 million. By 2040 the population would have reached 77.5 million — a whopping 24 million people more than is currently projected, according to a study by the South African Institute of Race Relations (SAIRR).
South Africa has more people living with HIV/AIDS than any other country; an estimated 5.7 million South Africans are infected with the disease.
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SAIRR data shows that 31 percent of all deaths in 2011 were AIDS-related. This will rise to 33 percent by 2015, and 121 percent by 2025, according to the projection.
"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," Thuthukani Ndebele, a researcher at the institute, said in a statement.
The UN's program on HIV and AIDS announced in November that globally, AIDS-related deaths are down 21 percent from their peak in 2005. The number of new HIV infections is also down 21 percent from its peak in 1997.
But less than a week later, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria announced cutbacks to grants because of a dramatic shortfall in funding, blamed on the economic crisis in Europe.
The group Medecins Sans Frontieres warned that cutbacks could halt progress in fighting the HIV/AIDS epidemic in countries hardest hit.
"The dramatic resource shortfall comes at a time when the latest HIV science shows that HIV treatment itself not only saves lives, but is also a critical form of preventing the spread of the virus, and governments are making overtures that there could be an end to the AIDS epidemic," MSF said at the time.
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