What Do Demographics Say About AIDS in Africa?

A health care worker in Tanzania gives a young mother her HIV medication. The African continent will experience a massive population increase. How will it impact the fight to eliminate HIV?

James Pursey/EGPAF

Despite the many challenges facing the continent, Africa is poised to be “for better or worse … more important than ever” over the coming decades. That news comes from the United Nations Population Division, which tracks demographics and released its revised projections for the next 90 years earlier this week.

According to the statistics, the African continent will experience a population boom, quadrupling in size by 2100, while Asia, South America, Europe, and North America will either remain steady or shrink over the next century. The boom will be centered in sub-Saharan Africa, where Tanzania will grow from 45 million to 276 million – nearly matching the current size of the United States.  Based on the numbers, similar growth projections are shared by Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ethiopia.

The fight to eliminate HIV plays a big role in these projections. The average lifespan on the African continent is increasing, and is expected to rise by 50 percent by 2100. But HIV continues to present the continent with critical obstacles. In Nigeria, which is expected to grow at an extremely rapid rate over the next century to rival China in population, only 30 percent of the population has access to antiretroviral therapy (ART). Nearly 4 percent of the population is living with HIV, including nearly 500,000 children.  Tanzania shares similar issues - 1.6 million Tanzanians are living with HIV, including 230,000 children.

These projections are not predictions, but Africa will be increasingly crucial – politically and economically – as the years pass. How Africa is able to contend with challenges, including AIDS, will determine its future role in the world.

Organizations like the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation are dedicated to creating an AIDS-free generation in Africa and around the world and are working with governments across sub-Saharan Africa to help millions of women give birth to happy, healthy, HIV-free children. Our fight is a fight for the future, of Africa and the world.

Jane Coaston is Media Relations Coordinator for the Foundation, based in Washington, D.C.