Recent upturn in mortality in rural Zimbabwe: evidence for an early demographic impact of HIV-1 infection?

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To describe recent mortality trends in rural Zimbabwe and to assess the impact of HIV-1 infection.


Comparative, cross-sectional, retrospective, demographic survey with 1-year follow-up. Parallel HIV-1 surveillance. Comparison of results with 1992 national census and vital registration data and results from mathematical model-based population projections.

Setting and participants:

Residents of 929 (745 revisited in 1995) households in two rural areas of Manicaland Province, Zimbabwe, with contrasting HIV-1 prevalence: Honde and Rusitu valleys. Subjects gave information on parental survival for 2320 resident children. Female residents aged 13–49 years (n = 1237) provided information on birth histories and child survival. Consenting women attending local antenatal clinics (n = 487) provided blood samples for HIV-1 screening and demographic information.

Main outcome measures:

HIV-1 prevalence in pregnant women; per capita death registration rates; incidence of parental death for children aged under 8 years; infant mortality and age-specific death probabilities.


HIV-1 prevalence was high in each study area. Death registration and age-specific mortality have begun to rise. The largest increases were seen in the area of higher HIV-1 prevalence (Honde) and among younger adults, particularly men. Incidence of parental death was observed to be rising. Increases in registered deaths were concentrated among HIV-1-associated causes.


The observed increases in mortality by age, sex and cause of death were consistent with those expected early in a severe HIV-1 epidemic, on the basis of mathematical model projections and observations elsewhere in Africa. Further rises in mortality, particularly among women and young children, and consequent increases in orphanhood, are to be expected in rural areas of Zimbabwe.

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