Box 8
Infectious Diseases and Economic Development

Infectious diseases like malaria and HIV/AIDS act as a massive societal brake, slowing both economic and human development.

Each year, malaria slows economic growth in several sub-Saharan African countries by as much as 1.3% per person per year. 7 Besides interfering with individuals’ abilities to earn a living or attend school, malaria affects national economies by impeding trade, foreign investment, and commerce. It also interferes with children’s mental and physical development and may encourage population growth when parents decide to have bigger families, knowing that some of their children may die young. According to one estimate, 8 if malaria had been eliminated 35 years ago, Africa’s current annual gross domestic product would be $400 billion, rather than $300 billion—a loss that is nearly five times greater than all development aid provided to Africa last year.

According to a World Bank report, 9 HIV/AIDS may subtract an additional 1% a year from GDP growth in some sub-Saharan African countries, due to the continuing loss of skilled and unskilled workers in the prime of life. In South Africa, for example, HIV/AIDS may depress GDP by as much as 17% over the next decade, which is a dangerous burden for a young democracy. The HIV/AIDS pandemic is destabilizing several other hard-hit nations, damaging their economic, social, political, military, and educational infrastructures, and creating vast numbers of orphans.

Return to CDC's Global Infectious Disease Strategy
National Center for Infectious Diseases
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Atlanta, GA