NPR’s ‘Morning Edition’ Reports on Malnutrition and HIV/AIDS in Zimbabwe
NPR's "Morning Edition" today reports on how malnutrition is accelerating the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Zimbabwe. According to government officials, 2,500 people are dying of AIDS each week in the country. In addition, almost one-third of Zimbabwe's population is HIV-positive, and life expectancy in the country has fallen "dramatically," from 55 years in 1980 to 38 years in 2002, leaving few healthy farm workers. Stephen Lewis, the U.N. Secretary General's Special Envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa, in December 2002 toured Zambia and five other African nations and called the combination of HIV/AIDS and malnutrition a "witches' brew" that is killing and debilitating thousands of people. Lewis said, "Everybody now understands that when the body has no food to consume, the virus consumes the body. What of course is happening is in the absence of food the immune systems are weakening, the progression of the disease is so much more rapid and people are dying sooner." David Wilson, a professor of public health at the University of Zimbabwe, said that the number of sex workers in the country has increased as people "become more desperate" to obtain food, a trend that could further spread HIV. Wilson said, "What we're now seeing is [that] both HIV and food shortages amplify each other. People with HIV have limited access to food and therefore much poorer health outcomes. And in turn, because of HIV, agriculture is placed under strain. I think the point is that HIV makes other crises that much worse." Lewis said that although the international community has "done a good job" in sending emergency food aid to Zimbabwe, it has "reacted abysmally" to the HIV portion of the crisis, so that even if the famine is resolved, HIV/AIDS will be "hovering over the country for years to come" (Beaubien, "Morning Edition," NPR, 2/19). The full segment will be available online in RealPlayer and Windows Media after noon ET.This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.