HIV is expected to become the third-leading
cause of death by 2030. Nations in Africa
and South Asia will be especially hard hit.
By drawing on the World Bank’s projections of socioeconomicdevelopment over the next quarter century, researchers at the WorldHealth Organization set out to forecast global trends in death anddisease. Among the grim catalog of predictions is that the current toptwo killers—heart disease and stroke—will hold on to their rankings. By2030, however, HIV/AIDS will move up from its current ranking in fourthplace to become the third-leading cause of death around the globe aswell as the most common cause of debilitating illness.
One of the obvious consequences of increased development will be more deaths andinjuries from traffic accidents, and tobacco-related deaths are alsoexpected to surge, accounting for 10 percent of all fatalities by 2015.In fact, WHO estimates that 50 percent more people will die fromillnesses due to tobacco use than from AIDS that year, although tobaccoitself is not listed as a cause of death. Deaths from tobacco-relatedconditions will be split fairly evenly among cancers, cardiovasculardiseases, and respiratory illnesses.
The report, which is themost comprehensive of its kind, does contain some bright spots. Forexample, it predicts that maternal deaths associated with pregnancy andchildbirth will become less common, as will infant mortality and deathsfrom nutritional causes. Because of increased prosperity and bettermedical care, the risk of death for children younger than 5 isprojected to decrease by more than 40 percent by 2030. The death ratefrom tuberculosis, malaria, and other non-HIV infectious diseases willalso decline. And people all over the world will be living longerlives, with the largest gains occurring in Africa and South Asia.