For most of the 20th century, life expectancy increased in nearly every part of the world. However, starting in the late 1980s, the HIV epidemic reversed this positive trend in southern Africa, with a large rise in mortality among working-age adults. In the early 2000s, southern African nations began to provide antiretroviral therapy (ART) for HIV-positive adults.
Researchers supported by the Population Dynamics Branch measured the effect of ART programs on life expectancy in rural South Africa. Using data from a population cohort of more than 101,000 individuals, scientists measured changes in adult life expectancy for 2000–2011.
In 2003, the year before ART became available in the public-sector health system, adult life expectancy was 49.2 years. By 2011, adult life expectancy had increased to 60.5 years—an 11.3-year gain (PMID: 23430655).