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South African Press Association
Births Grow By Only 1,8 Percent; AIDS Blamed

July 30, 2002
The number of new-born babies registered in South Africa last year grew by only 1,82 percent from 2000, Statistics SA reported on Tuesday. At the end of 2001, the figure stood at 1433432 compared to 1407833 a year earlier.

University of SA demographer Carel van Aardt ascribed the "dreadfully low" increase partly to the prevalence of HIV/Aids.

"In its later stages, the disease affects the biological capacity of a woman to have babies. We are getting an ever-increasing pool of women approaching full-blown Aids," he told Sapa.

Urbanisation also played a role in the low birth rate. It saw more women entering the labour market, opting for either postponing children or settling for smaller families.

"In other words, women's fertility period is becoming shorter."

Van Aardt predicted the country could by the year 2010 be close to a zero-growth figure in the number of new births registered.

Stats said the low increase in 2001 was a continuation of a pattern that started around 1992.

"This trend shows a smooth, gradual decline for the period from 1991 to 2000, supporting the evidence of declining fertility in South Africa," Stats SA said.

Acting director of vital statistics Sulaiman Bah told Sapa he was not surprised by the slight increase in the overall birth figure.

"The trend since 1991 shows a steady decline in births even after the adding of late registrations."

Bah would not speculate on the reasons, saying this would require a separate study.

Van Aardt said lower fertility was certainly a factor, but could not be only explanation for the low birth rate.

This was especially true if one took into account that the use of contraceptives was not common among the majority of the population.

Outlining the role of HIV/Aids, he said the disease had a ravaging effect on the body of a woman sufferer as it progressed through its six stages.

Already in the second or third stage, a woman would start losing interest in sex, and later her attractiveness as a partner.

"The odds of such a woman conceiving diminish, until the more advanced stages of Aids renders her biologically unable to have children," Van Aardt said.

Stats SA detected a decrease in recorded births in all months of the year.

"Seasonal variation of births clearly indicates that September was the month in which childbearing peaked, followed by March."

In a provincial breakdown of birth registrations last year, KwaZulu-Natal came out on top, followed by the Eastern Cape and Gauteng. The Northern Cape was at the bottom of the list.

Stats SA said most new mothers were between the ages of 20 and 29 last year, while fathers were mostly between and 30 and 34 years old.