HIV/AIDS Epidemic Hindering Agricultural Output, Threatening Millions With Hunger, Poverty, FAO/UNAIDS Report Says
The HIV/AIDS epidemic in Africa is affecting agricultural output and threatening millions of people with poverty and hunger, according to a joint report released yesterday by UNAIDS and the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. The report, titled "Addressing the Impact of HIV/AIDS on Ministries of Agriculture: Focus on Eastern and Southern Africa," calls for agricultural institutions to scale up their efforts to combat HIV/AIDS. FAO Director-General Dr. Jacques Diouf and UNAIDS Executive Director Dr. Peter Piot presented the report during the U.N. Economic and Social Council's 2003 session, which ends July 25 (FAO/UNAIDS release, 6/30). According to the report, approximately 30 million of the 42 million people living with HIV/AIDS are in sub-Saharan Africa, and more than 50% of them are in rural areas. In addition, up to 80% of the population in Southern Africa depends on small-scale agriculture for food and livelihood, Agence France-Presse reports. Many countries in the region are likely to see 25% of their farmers affected by HIV/AIDS, according to the report (Agence France-Presse, 6/30). Piot said, "The majority of African countries worst-hit by HIV/AIDS are also those heavily reliant on agriculture. For many rural households in these countries, AIDS has turned what used to be a food shortage into a food crisis." Diouf said, "Hunger and poverty, aggravated by HIV/AIDS, create a vicious spiral," adding, "Where farmers and their families fall sick, they cultivate less land and shift to less labor-intensive and less nutritious crops, agricultural productivity decreases and hunger and malnutrition are on the rise. Many children are losing their parents before learning how to farm, to prepare food and to fend for themselves. Severe malnutrition among orphans is already reported in the worst affected areas" (FAO/UNAIDS release, 6/30).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.