The tentacles of HIV/AIDS are already reaching deep into the wellspring of South African society, and are set to cause further major disruptions to society in the first years of the 21st century.
This is clear from an exhaustive analysis, based on several sources, just published in the latest South Africa Survey by the SA Institute of Race Relations. The Survey is internationally known for its thorough research and impartiality.
Quoting a report by the Institute for Futures Research at the University of Stellenbosch, the Survey says that HIV/AIDS will affect economic growth and income per capita in a variety of ways, both directly and indirectly.
These include disruptions to the production process caused by sickness and death; the decline in the rate of growth of the labour force; the decline in the average level of experience of the workforce; the deterioration in the quality of education; and the fall in public and private domestic savings as AIDS-related expenditure increases.
Moreover, the rate of return to capital is likely to decline, owing to a decline in productivity, increasing personnel expenditure, and a possible increase in the capital-labour ratio.
This would tend to discourage investment - especially inward foreign direct investment. In fact, capital outflows are likely to increase.
HIV is cited by Statistics SA as the top underlying cause of death among females between 1997 and 2001. The proportional increase in deaths between 1997 and 2001 was 75%, a figure based on a sample drawn from over a quarter of million death records from the Department of Home Affairs.
The Survey contains a table that provides an overview of the impact of HIV/AIDS, offering a range of data and interpretations to give a broader understanding of the virus and its consequences. The Survey points out that it is almost impossible to obtain accurate empirical data on the extent and impact of HIV/AIDS.
Most of the available information is derived from mathematical models that are based on statistical fact, and are plausible.
However, extrapolated conclusions drawn from the statistics are less solid.
In the event, some of the factors identified in the table include:
The present number of HIV infections is estimated at 6 559 000 (high) by the Actuarial Society of SA in 2002 as against 4 740 000 (low) by the Department of Health in 2001.
As at the end of 2000, AIDS deaths as a proportion of total deaths are estimated as 33% (high) by the Actuarial Society of SA as against 25% by the Medical Research Council.
UNAIDS estimates that the number of AIDS orphans currently living is 660 000, whereas the Democratic Alliance puts the figure at 150 000. The DA projects this figure will grow to 7 million by 2010, while Abt Associates/Metropolitan Life projects a more conservative growth to 1.95 million.
ABSA projects that the labour force will shrink by 23.5% by 2015 as a result of AIDS, while the Bureau for Economic Research's estimate is 21%.
Andrew Levy and Associates project a workforce HIV/AIDS infection rate of 30% by 2005, while ING Barings estimates that it will be 25%.
ING Barings projects a 23% incidence amongst skilled workers by 2005, while Abt Associates/Metropolitan Life says this figure will be 25.4% by 2015.
The figures for unskilled workers, projected by the same companies for the same time periods, are 32% and 27.6% respectively.
The World Bank believes that 12% of all teachers in South Africa are infected, while the Department of Education's estimate is 20% -this latter figure applying only to KwaZulu-Natal, however.
By 2015 the shrinkage of real GDP owing to AIDS will be 9.6%, says ABSA, while ING Barings puts the figure at 2.8%.
The Bureau for Economic Research predicts that the HIV/AIDS effect on producer price increases between 2002 and 2015 will come in at a high of 3.3% points per year and a low of 1.9% points per year.
Additional healthcare costs as a result of HIV/AIDS by 2009 range from Old Mutual Healthcare's high of $3.8 billion per year, to Abt Associates $2.7 billion.
Apart from invaluable information in tables such as these, the latest Survey is peppered with findings on the toll that AIDS is exacting on a developing country.
For example, the chapter on Demographics notes that HIV/AIDS is reducing fertility levels. Women with HIV/AIDS have lower fertility rates, caused by secondary sterility and increased foetal death resulting from the disease, and by opportunistic infections. In addition, AIDS is shortening the reproductive lifespan of many women, particularly those in their
The virus is also having a direct influence on the ageing of the population, with people over the age of 80 the fastest growing section of the population according to the Institute of Ageing in Africa. One of the reasons for this is that medical advances are increasing
lifespans, but another is that AIDS is killing a much greater proportion of younger people, because they are at greater risk of contracting HIV than older people.
(Source: SAPA, 24 August 2003) URL for the South African Institute of Race Relations is