South African Births Rise By Only 1.8%; Researchers Partly Blame HIV/AIDS
The number of infants born in South Africa in 2001 increased only 1.8% over the previous year, largely due to the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, South African Press Association/AllAfrica.com reports. Overall, registered births rose from 1,407,833 in 2000 to 1,433,432 in 2001, according to a report released Tuesday by Statistics SA, the government's official statistics agency. The figures represent the continuation of a pattern of declining fertility that began around 1992, the agency said. Carel van Aardt, a demographer at the University of South Africa, said that the high prevalence of HIV/AIDS could be partly responsible for the decline in fertility because of how the disease "affects the biological capacity of a woman" to conceive and carry a child. In the early stages of HIV infection, a woman begins to lose her interest in sex, he said, noting that as her health deteriorates, she also loses her appeal to potential partners. Eventually, in the more advanced stages of AIDS, a woman's fertility declines until she is "biologically unable to have children," van Aardt said. Urbanization and women's increasing entrance into the job market are also responsible for the decreased number of births, as many women either put off having children or limit family size because of work demands, he said. Van Aardt predicted that by the end of the decade, South Africa could experience zero growth in the number of new registered births. Sulaiman Bah, acting director of Statistics SA, said he was not surprised by the low number of new births but would not comment on possible reasons for the decline, saying a separate analysis would be needed to make any determination (SAPA/AllAfrica.com, 7/30).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.