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The NIH Director's Wednesday Afternoon Lecture Series
The catastrophes of the twentieth century were obvious — at least 20 million killed by the 1919 flu epidemic, 200 million killed in wars and famines, and about 2 billion killed by the avoidable diseases of early childhood. Except for the effects of HIV and tobacco, however, the 20th century, taken as a whole, was the century of life, not of death. Worldwide, there has been a threefold decrease in childhood mortality since 1950, together with a substantial decrease in adult mortality, at least until the advent of HIV. For those who avoid HIV, however, life expectancy at the end of the 20th century in the aggregate of all "less-developed" countries is better than it was in any of today's developed countries at the beginning of the 20th century.