AIDS ORPHAN
Naashon Zalk  /  AP file
A malnourished AIDS orphan rests while other children play at Peace Ma Africa Children's Home near Johannesburg, South Africa, in this Dec. 1 file photo.
updated 3/23/2004 1:42:32 PM ET 2004-03-23T18:42:32

Fewer births and more deaths from AIDS are helping slow world population growth, the Census Bureau says.

In a report Monday, the bureau forecast a world population of about 9.1 billion people by 2050, a nearly 50 percent increase from the 6.2 billion in 2002. However, the growth rate is slowing significantly.

The global population grew 1.2 percent from 2001 to 2002, or about 74 million people, but growth will slow to 0.42 percent by 2050. That’s far below the peak growth of 2.2 percent between 1963 and 1964.

The projections are generally in line with separate forecasts from the United Nations and private researchers. The 2050 world projection is slightly lower than the 9.3 billion forecast in a previous bureau report on the topic in 1998.

Bureau officials warned that such forecasts are based on two factors that could change: fertility rates in developing countries and the AIDS epidemic.

Generally, in the United States and Europe, women are having fewer children, while fertility rates remain high in India, parts of Africa and some other developing countries, said Carl Haub, a demographer with the Population Reference Bureau, a private research group.

Family planning
The wild card is how prevalent contraceptive use and family planning becomes in these countries, Haub said. As an example, he cited India, where the population is expected to rise more than 50 percent to 1.6 billion in 2050, surpassing China as the most populous country.

According to the bureau, there are at least 100 million women in the world’s developing countries who would like to space or limit their pregnancies but are not using contraception.

Family planning education in India and Africa is difficult because of the large numbers of rural villages that cannot easily be reached, Haub said.

In 2002, the world’s women gave birth to an average of 2.6 children over their lifetime. The bureau projections assume that the fertility rate will drop below two children per woman by 2050.

Meanwhile, AIDS has killed more than 20 million people since the epidemic began two decades ago. Twice that many people now live with HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS, and barring major medical breakthroughs most of these people are expected to die within the next 10 years, the bureau said.

Threat of AIDS
AIDS continues to have its greatest impact in developing countries of Asia, Latin America and especially sub-Saharan Africa. Botswana and South Africa are among countries that may see population decline because of AIDS deaths.

The bureau report said the trend could reverse if AIDS education programs are expanded successfully in developing nations, and pointed to positive signs in Thailand, Senegal and Uganda, nations in which the AIDS epidemic appears to have been stemmed.

The report also predicted the continued increase in the world’s older population. In 2002, people 65 and older made up 7 percent of the population, but that age group will comprise nearly 17 percent by 2050.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Discuss:

Discussion comments

,

Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments