World Population Growth Slowing Due to AIDS Epidemic, Declining Fertility Rates, Census Bureau Report Says
World population growth is slowing largely because of increasing mortality rates related to the AIDS epidemic and declining fertility rates, according to a Census Bureau report released on Monday, the AP/USA Today reports. The report predicts that the world population will increase by nearly 50% over the next 50 years, from 6.2 billion in 2002 to 9.1 billion in 2050. However, the growth rate is expected to slow to 0.42% by 2050, compared with 1.2% between 2001 and 2002, the report says (AP/USA Today, 3/23). The decline in the rate of population growth is tied primarily to declining fertility rates. In 1990, women gave birth to an average of 3.3 children during their lifetimes, according to the study. By 2002, the average had dropped to 2.6 children per woman, and the bureau predicts that it will fall below the level needed for population replacement before 2050, according to AFP/Yahoo! News (AFP/Yahoo! News, 3/23). However, the extent to which contraceptive use and other family planning techniques become popular in developing countries is the "wild card" that could change the report's predictions, according to the AP/USA Today. For example, there are at least 100 million women in developing countries who would like to limit or space their pregnancies but who currently are not using contraception, according to the bureau.
Impact of AIDS Epidemic
The response of the global community to the AIDS epidemic also could impact the predictions, according to the AP/USA Today. Most of the estimated 40 million HIV-positive people in the world are expected to die within the next 10 years, according to the report (AP/USA Today, 3/23). Demographers predict that the average life expectancy in several African countries will drop to around 30 years by 2010, in large part because of the AIDS epidemic (AFP/Yahoo! News, 3/23). Botswana, South Africa and other countries in Asia, Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa could experience population decline due to deaths from AIDS-related complications. However, the report says that the trend could be reversed if AIDS education programs are successfully expanded in developing nations. The report gives the examples of Thailand, Uganda and Senegal, where the HIV/AIDS epidemic appears to have been curbed because of prevention efforts (AP/USA Today, 3/23). The report is accompanied by a special supplemental report on HIV/AIDS, titled "The AIDS Pandemic in the 21st Century" (Census Bureau release, 3/22).