Two AIDS Conferences in Mozambique Address HIV/AIDS, Food Security, Public-Private Partnerships
Two conferences taking place this week in Mozambique are addressing issues surrounding the AIDS epidemic in Southern African nations, the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. One conference, which is sponsored by Metropolitan, a South African financial services company, is examining the role of public-private partnerships in the fight against AIDS. The other conference is considering ways of alleviating the effects of HIV on regional food production (Sylvester, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 11/5). AIDS experts and representatives from the 14 countries of the Southern African Development Community -- Angola, Botswana, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe -- Kenya, Uganda, the United States and various nongovernmental organizations are attending the conferences, AIM/AllAfrica.com reports (AIM/AllAfrica.com, 11/4). Although harvests in Southern Africa have generally recovered from last year's droughts, HIV is taking a "higher than expected toll" on food production because many farmers are sick or dying, according to the Associated Press (Ntave, Associated Press, 11/4).
Effects Felt in Mozambique, Zimbabwe
In Mozambique, the food shortages especially are affecting the nation's 400,000 AIDS orphans, who have lost one or both parents to AIDS-related causes. The children often "end up at the back of [food aid] lines because they are left to fend for themselves," according to Jennifer Abrahamson of the World Food Programme, which currently feeds more than 122,000 children in the country and hopes to feed an additional 100,000 by the end of the year. UNICEF predicts that Mozambique will be home to 926,000 AIDS orphans by 2010. "If we do not stem the tide [of AIDS] now, it will be nearly impossible to feed these children in the future," Atieno Odenyo, a UNICEF officer in Mozambique, said (AP/Las Vegas Sun, 11/5). Similar food shortages in Zimbabwe have led to the deaths of many people who otherwise would have survived, Andrew Moyo, director of the Matabeleland AIDS Council, said. Food shortages in the country have continued to worsen, and HIV/AIDS support groups have expressed concern about the high incidence of malnutrition and HIV/AIDS in the country's urban centers. WFP with a number of its implementing partners is currently working on a report on the effects of food shortages in Zimbabwe's urban areas, U.N. IRIN/AllAfrica.com reports (U.N. IRIN/AllAfrica.com, 11/4).
Speakers on Tuesday urged African governments to invest in agricultural development in order to offset the effects of AIDS on regional food production, according to the Associated Press. Joseph Tumushabe, a senior AIDS researcher at Uganda's University of Makerere, said that the Ugandan government has been providing small business loans of $100 to $500 to HIV-positive people who use the loans to start small, mainly agricultural businesses, adding, "They then survive on food they grow and can sell the rest." Peter Mandla of the nongovernmental group Zambia AIDS Project said that the Zambian government had started investing in locally produced irrigation pumps to encourage agricultural development in poor areas. "Those living with AIDS are now able to produce their own vegetables, which is important to remain healthy," Mandla said, adding, "They are also empowered, because they can sell the vegetables and buy other necessary items to stay healthy" (Associated Press, 11/4).
Nations that benefit from the New Partnership for Africa's Development's efforts to create economic opportunities may become more vulnerable to HIV/AIDS because the plan does not address the epidemic, Metropolitan AIDS Strategist Stephen Kramer said at the Metropolitan African AIDS Conference. "NEPAD is doing a great deal to coordinate action in sectors such as agriculture and telecommunication [but it] hardly mentions HIV/AIDS," Kramer said, adding that if NEPAD creates jobs without addressing AIDS, it "will bring greater inequality to communities, which is a risk factor for HIV." Studies have shown that in areas with social inequality, people with money often have more sexual partners, making them more vulnerable to HIV, according to Health-e News. If NEPAD were to integrate HIV/AIDS programs into its efforts, "it could be very effective," Kramer said.
Mozambique National AIDS Program
Dr. Alexander Manuel, Mozambique's national health director, appealed to African governments for greater cooperation in improving access to antiretroviral drugs. He said that unless there was regional cooperation, Botswana, which provide the drugs through its public health system, and South Africa, which is planning a similar program, could experience an influx of people from other countries seeking free drugs, according to Health-e News (Cullinan, Health-e News, 11/4). Although Mozambique is one of Africa's poorest nations, the government is implementing a national HIV/AIDS treatment plan, using a "flood" of donations from the William J. Clinton Presidential Foundation, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria and the World Bank, Health-e News reports. The plan is "very ambitious" because Mozambique has only 461 doctors for its 18.5 million people, "one of the lowest figures per capita in the world," Dr. Marc Biot, country representative for Medecins Sans Frontieres, said. Since January, the program has tested 17,000 people for HIV and is providing care to 4,000 HIV/AIDS patients, including 282 who are on antiretroviral drug treatment. Over the next five years, the country plans to treat 132,000 HIV-positive people with antiretroviral drugs (Cullinan, Health-e News, 11/4).