HIV/ AIDS Sets Back Human Development 
by Years in Some Countries

HIV/AIDS is a personal, social and economic tragedy as well as a global health threat.  It is no respecter of wealth.  In Europe and North America, AIDS is now the leading cause of death for adults under 45.  But there is no escaping the fact that developing countries are hit hardest.  Every day, 6,000 new HIV infections occur, one every 15 seconds, and 90 per cent of those new infections are in developing countries. 

New research conducted for UNDP at Columbia University and the Harvard Institute for International Development and appearing for the first time in the Human Development Report 1996 shows that HIV/AIDS is affecting the Human Development Index (HDI).  The index measures basic human capabilities, ranking countries according to their average levels of life expectancy, educational attainment and basic purchasing power.  Researchers have concluded that the world lost on average 1.3 years of human development progress due to the pandemic between 1982 and 1992.  

In some countries, the setback was particularly severe : Zambia more than 10 years, Tanzania eight years, Rwanda seven years and the Central African Republic more than six years.  Burundi, Kenya, Malawi, Uganda and Zimbabwe lost between three and five years.  The HDI drop was caused mainly by the dramatic reduction of life expectancy, one of three components of the index.  More than 85 per cent of HIV/AIDS deaths world-wide occur among people between 20 and 45 years old.  The study found only marginal impact on the education and income components of the HDI, but because the index is only a partial measurement of human development, "the impact of HIV/AIDS goes far beyond what this study shows," says the report. 

While Africa has shown the greatest impact of the pandemic to date, Asia's toll will soon affect the global HDI.  "The losses will continue to mount, especially in such countries India, Myanmar and Thailand, where the AIDS crisis is increasingly visible," says the report.  "Governments that do not take the AIDS threat seriously now, or shy away from action because of cultural or religious sensitivities, will pay the price later."  

Source : United Nations World Summit for Social Development, 

Copenhagen, Denmark 6-12 March 1995.