U.N. Special Envoy Says Famine in Southern Africa ‘Induced’ by HIV/AIDS
The HIV/AIDS pandemic is "not only compounding" the famine in southern Africa, it is "possibly causing it," Stephen Lewis, the U.N. Secretary General's special envoy on HIV/AIDS, said yesterday at the start of a three-week tour of the region, the Associated Press reports (Kraft, Associated Press, 11/27). According to the biannual report on the state of HIV/AIDS worldwide released yesterday by UNAIDS and the World Health Organization, more than 14 million people are now at risk of starvation in Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. The "predominantly agricultural" societies in these countries are "fighting an uphill battle" against HIV/AIDS, with more than five million adults out of the total adult population of 26 million living with HIV/AIDS, as well as approximately 600,000 HIV-positive children under the age of 15 in the countries. In addition, the report found that seven million agricultural workers in 25 African countries have died of AIDS since 1985, including nearly 500,000 people "in their productive prime" from the six countries threatened by famine (Xinhua News Agency, 11/26). According to the Associated Press, Lewis was "outspoken in stressing [HIV/AIDS'] centrality" to the food crisis, which differs from previous African famines because AIDS is essentially "wiping out the work force." In addition, Lewis said the "consequences are especially dire" for a continent where most farming is done by women, who make up the majority of those infected with HIV in southern Africa. Lewis added, "You can't decimate your agricultural workers and expect even to produce the amount (of food) you've had before ... [T]hat's what makes this so different." Lewis will visit Nambia, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi on his tour and will meet with AIDS patients, government officials, representatives of donor countries and relief agencies (Associated Press, 11/27).
The first hour of WAMU's "Diane Rehm Show," a syndicated NPR program, today will include a discussion on famine, Africa and AIDS. Check local NPR listings for show times. The segment will be available online in RealPlayer Audio after the broadcast (Rehm, "Diane Rehm Show," WAMU, 11/27).