The use of Western medicine has improved health generally and reduced the incidence of malaria and smallpox specifically, but high infant mortality and a variety of health problems remained. Most urban areas, including Vientiane, lack pure water and sanitary disposal systems. In 2000, 90% of the population had access to safe drinking water and 46% had adequate sanitation. In parts of Laos, malaria – the most serious health threat – is known to affect the majority of children. In 1995, there were 1,365 new cases of cholera. Other health problems are acute upper respiratory infections (including pneumonia and influenza), diarrhoea and dysentery, parasites, yaws, skin ailments, various childhood diseases, hepatitis, venereal disease, and tuberculosis. Common diseases have been malaria, measles, and leprosy. In 1999, there were 171 reported cases of tuberculosis per 100,000 inhabitants. In the mid1990s, a UNICEF survey found iodine deficiencies and goitre to be common problems in rural areas of Laos. Programs to increase iodine levels via salt intake were being instituted. An estimated 25% of school-age children were reported to have goitre. Children up to one year of age were vaccinated against tuberculosis, 69%; diphtheria, pertussis, and tetanus, 48%; polio, 57%; and measles, 73%. Vaccination rates were 56% for DPT and 71% for measles. The prevalence of underweight children was 44%, greater than the average of developing countries in South East Asia.
As of 2004, there were an estimated 59 physicians, 103 nurses, and five dentists per 100,000 people. Healthcare expenditure was estimated at 2.5% of GDP. Average life expectancy in 2005 was estimated at 55.08 years and infant mortality was estimated at 85.22 per 1,000 live births. The total fertility rate has remained nearly constant over the last years. The fertility rate in 2000 was five children per woman during her childbearing years. the overall mortality rate in 2002 was estimated at 12.7 per 1,000 people; the maternal mortality rate in 1998 was 650 per 100,000 live births.
The HIV/AIDS prevalence was 0.10 per 100 adults in 2003. As of 2004, there were approximately 1,700 people living with HIV/AIDS in the country. There were an estimated 200 deaths from AIDS in 2003.